NeoRyu777 here! As promised, it is the second Thursday after the ending of "A World of Difference," so I hereby present you with the sequel!
Disclaimer: Why yes, I DO own Harry Potter and Final Fantasy! brings out wallet to show off loads of cash, only to find it empty T.T Sorry, looks like I don't own them.
Chapter One: Houselves and Training and Weasleys, oh my!
Number Four Privet Drive. A place that has long been known for its standard of normalcy, and yet, for some reason unknown to the other occupants of Privet Drive, a five-year-old with jet black hair had fled from the premises almost seven years ago. The mystery of it all had been hushed up by Petunia Dursley, but now, as the gossips of Privet Drive spied a raven-haired boy in the Dursley vehicle, the mystery was about to be reopened.
Harry Potter tried hard, he really did, to keep from laughing as a mere hour after he returned to Privet Drive, women began hounding after his aunt, who reluctantly accepted the dinner proposals and lunch dates. After all, to do otherwise would be abnormal, and Petunia Dursley most certainly did not want that. In the end, Harry lost the battle after retreating to his room, where he began laughing uncontrollably. After several minutes, Harry regained control over himself. "Oh, I haven't laughed that hard in years…" Harry commented with another chuckle.
:It will probably be the last time you laugh for a long time, as well.:
Harry's amused mood died like a bug under pesticide at his tenant's grim comment. Yeah, Quetzalcoatl, I know, Harry agreed solemnly. He looked at his wand. What I wouldn't give to be able to use magic undetected, Harry thought longingly as he viewed the room he had been assigned. It was Dudley's second bedroom, which had toys strewn everywhere, most of them broken. His hand twitched, itching to take his wand and clean everything up, but he couldn't.
Harry unpacked swiftly and spent the next hour cleaning up. He quickly found a loose floorboard that he could use to hide his possessions, so Harry reluctantly put his Item Bag there; his relatives would surely try and take it if they saw the pouch on his belt.
"Do you think I should put in my gunblade as well?" Harry asked Seth, his loyal snake. Seth was no longer being hidden on Harry's arm with his Metamorphmagus powers, but was wrapped loosely around it, looking around. They had agreed mere minutes before that Seth would come in handy for scaring the Dursleys.
Seth considered for a moment. "No. You never know when you might be attacked, and you do know the Memory Charm if necessary."
"Right," Harry agreed, and finished cleaning up before putting Hedwig on the large desk he had moved near the window. "Hey Hedwig."His faithful snowy owl hooted softly as Harry unlocked her cage. "How you doing?"
Hedwig looked at Harry and nipped his finger affectionately. Harry smiled, stroking her in response. "This magic restriction over the holidays sucks," he informed his owl. "I can't practice my magic or anything. I don't even know how the Ministry tracks underage magic, so I can't risk trying to circumvent it." Hedwig hooted sympathetically. "Oh well, at least my Terran spells will replenish over the summer. I may as well start training a bit, try to get stronger."
Over the next several days, Harry trained himself, toning his muscles once again. After nine days, Harry was back in tip-top shape, ready for anything. Or at least, that's what Harry thought.
Harry had sent Hedwig out to ask the owner of Flourish and Blott's for an owl-order on the third day, realizing that he would need something else to occupy himself when he was physically tired until he could get out of Privet Drive. In the meantime, however, Harry spent his free time reacquainting himself with the area. When he got the owl-order form, he quickly spotted several innocent-looking books that Harry was eager to read.
Harry was confused as to why he hadn't gotten a single letter from his friends yet after three weeks at Privet Drive. He had sent a letter with Hedwig to each of them almost two weeks ago, just to see how they were, but Hedwig had returned without a letter each time, and none of his friends had replied.
After those three weeks, Harry was quite bored of his normal exercises, his reading, and exploring. He had long since finished his school homework to the best of his ability as well, which left him with little to do. Harry wanted heavy training, which usually consisted of killing difficult monsters to take their strength, or time with his friends, which he couldn't have.
So, with that thought in mind, he went downstairs to talk with his uncle. "Uncle Vernon," Harry greeted, forcing his tone to be polite. "Would you happen to know of a gym nearby?" Perhaps if I train with others it won't be so monotonous.
Vernon grunted. "Go down six streets, take a left, another three streets."
"Thank you." Harry walked out the door and followed Vernon's directions, which led him to a gym. Harry would have wondered how Vernon knew that so quickly, but then remembered a conversation he had overheard about Dudley getting into shape for boxing.
He entered, and a large burly man behind a counter glanced up. "Whatcha want, kid?"
"I'm here to lift some weights. How much?"
"Twenty-five pounds per month of membership," the man informed Harry.
Thank Merlin I had the foresight of exchanging some of my Galleons for pounds, Harry thought to himself as he paid.
"What's your name?" the man asked.
"Right then," the man said as he swiftly wrote it down. "Sign this, please."
Harry glanced over it. It was fairly simple, really. It simply stated that the gym would not be held responsible for any injuries suffered within. He signed and passed it back to the man, who filed it.
"OK, you're good to go. Need some help for working out the machines?"
"Nah, I think I got it," Harry said with a smile.
"Well, call me if you need me. Name's Jack. The weight room is round the corner on the right."
"Thanks." Harry followed Jack's directions, and quietly raised an eyebrow and the number of heavily muscled sweaty men lifting weights. Harry took off his shirt and made his way to an unoccupied machine, setting it to a nice starting weight, at one hundred and fifty pounds.
"Sure you can do that, kid?" One of the men was watching him.
In answer, Harry quickly pulled down on the handlebars, lifting the weights with little difficulty. The man seemed satisfied and went back to his own devices while Harry did a few sets, raising the weight to two hundred pounds, until his arms were very sore. Harry worked on the other machines as well, exercising his back and legs.
After a few more days like that, a few of the men started chatting with Harry, who appreciated the opportunity to make small talk while working; it was much easier to train with someone. Many of the men were stronger than Harry physically, it seemed – though Harry was working without junctioning magic to his strength. Apparently the strength Harry gained from monsters was miniscule; killing monsters effectively strengthened the magic of the person, but it did not add to physical strength. All it did was make the improvement of physical fitness faster.
Harry had never realized that before, believing that his strength improvements over the years had been the work of killing monsters. He was right, but not in the way he thought – killing the monsters repeatedly using his heavy gunblade to cut through flesh and bone naturally strengthened his arms, and the speed training Harry put himself through strengthened his legs. Of course, the months of neglect during the school year had degraded Harry's fitness somewhat, but he was recovering from that quickly, thanks to his innumerable monster kills.
Harry enjoyed talking and working out with the men at the gym, but even so, he missed his friends. It was the second Saturday of July when he found the problem. Harry had just arrived back at Number Four Privet Drive when he saw another car in the driveway.
Right, the new business deal thing Vernon was talking about for his drill business. Harry knew he'd be pushing it if he barged in as he was, sweaty and nonchalant. So, with a frown, Harry shimmied up the tree to his unlocked window, opened it and climbed in.
Once inside, Harry's magic sense alerted him to something standing on his bed, and Harry whirled around. "What the hell?" Harry asked.
The creature in front of him was very short, perhaps reaching Harry's thighs. It had very long ears, and wide, large eyes. It was brownish, skin-wise, and it wore a pillowcase. "Harry Potter," it said in awe. "Such an honor it is."
Harry resisted the urge to rub his temples to ward away the impending headache he knew was coming. "Um, no offense, but just what are you?"
"A house-elf, sire. I is Dobby." The self-proclaimed house-elf jumped off the bed and bowed in front of Harry.
"Um, I haven't exactly heard of a house-elf before. I've been gone for six years, you see…" Harry said slowly, trying to draw out more information. "So, what does a house-elf do?"
"House-elves is the servants of wizards," Dobby said simply. "Each house-elf is bound to a master to serve for the rest of its life." His eyes widened as he remembered just why he had traveled to Privet Drive. "Dobby has most dreadful news!"
Is the world ending? Are the worlds merging? Has Odin screwed up the timestream? Has Dumbledore realized his Memory Charm's gone? Harry thought wildly, trying to think of just what could go terribly wrong. "Well, what is it?" he asked as gently as he could.
"It, it is difficult to explain…"
Harry knew how that could be, and realized that Dobby was here to help him. So, dropping his usual "Just why are you bothering me?" attitude, Harry sat down on the bed and patted the area next to him. "Here, why don't you sit down?"
Dobby's eyes widened and he burst into loud tears. Harry was genuinely concerned now for the mental state of this poor creature. Was such a simple act of kindness unheard of for house-elves? Or had he offended him somehow? "I'm sorry, did I offend you?" Harry asked quickly. "I meant no disrespect."
"No, you is just fine, Harry Potter," Dobby said tearfully, wiping his eyes with his pillowcase. "I is merely surprised, sir. Dobby had heard of Harry Potter's greatness, but not of his goodness. Never, in all Dobby's life, has he been invited to sit down, like an equal."
"Well, you can't have met many decent wizards, then," Harry said with a frown. Are all house-elves treated like this? Are they all slaves?
Dobby merely shook his head. He opened his mouth as if to speak, and then he seemed terrified. He quickly looked around, locating a lamp. He lunged at it, grabbed it, and started banging himself on the head.
"Stop it!" Harry hissed at him, wresting the lamp from Dobby's fingers. "My relatives are downstairs!" Dobby looked at the ground. "Just what happened there? Why did you start doing that?"
"Dobby is sorry, Harry Potter. Dobby almost spoke ill of his masters, so Dobby had to punish himself, you see?"
Harry felt a rush of pity for the poor creature. A terrible injustice has been done to you, Dobby. He suddenly had a brainstorm. "Do house-elves have to obey the rules of another house if they visit?" Dobby nodded. "Then the first rule of being in this house is no punishing yourself. I'll let you know if you do something that merits punishment."
Dobby nodded solemnly. "Dobby understands."
Harry smiled at him. "So, just what was this terrible news?"
Dobby's eyes widened. "Harry Potter must not return to Hogwarts!"
"And why not?" Harry asked, holding back his irritation.
"Great evil is going to Hogwarts next year, and Harry Potter will be in grave danger!" Dobby proclaimed in a horrified whisper.
Harry looked piercingly at Dobby. "I'm going to ask a couple yes or no questions, ok? Just answer if you can." Dobby nodded.
"Is the evil related to Vol – I mean You-Know-Who?" Dobby slowly nodded.
Harry paused. "Will he return if the evil continues?" Dobby nodded again.
"Then I have to return to Hogwarts," Harry concluded. "I have to stop this evil."
"No!" Dobby protested. "Harry Potter mustn't!"
"Would it help if I told you that I have a few secret weapons that will work against any evil?" Harry whispered in the tone of sharing a secret. Quetzalcoatl, junctions please.
Dobby's eyes widened. "You is hiding your true power?" Harry nodded, and Quetzalcoatl disabled the junctions. "Dobby understands. Be careful, Harry Potter." Dobby snapped his fingers and disappeared. Then he reappeared again a few moments later with a bag of letters. "Dobby is very sorry, Harry Potter. He was stopping all letters, hoping Harry Potter would decide not to return to Hogwarts. Goodbye!" With another snap of his fingers, Dobby disappeared.
That explains a lot, Harry thought to himself as he rummaged through the letters and read the latest. Each of his friends was worried about his seeming lack of response, and Harry smiled warmly at their concern before writing each of them with an explanation.
Meanwhile, at Hogwarts, Dumbledore was thinking about Harry. When should he be released from the Dursleys? Not too soon, or else his stay will not make enough of an impression, and it can't be too long, or else he'll rebel. Now that he's had a taste of a life without the Dursleys, he'll be willing to do anything to be rid of them… including going to the Dark. I cannot have him do that; he must be my weapon against Voldemort, the only threat to my supreme power.
Dumbledore, unlike Voldemort, understood that true power came not from fear, but from love and respect. Voldemort intimidated his followers into submission, but only the most die-hard Death Eaters would sacrifice themselves for him, whereas Dumbledore had hundreds of people who loved him and would sacrifice themselves without thought. He did not even need to ask, and that made him much more powerful.
The title of Dark Lord is not even close to the truth, Dumbledore thought, fingering a blood-red stone in his pocket. With the Sorcerer's Stone, I am immortal, and I have more magical power than anyone else save Riddle. Once he is gone, I will be not a lord, but a God!
Time went on as it always does, and Harry's life grew a bit easier through his ability to communicate with his friends. It added a bit of variety into his otherwise monotonous routine, gave him something to look forward to. Each of his friends had been simultaneously relieved that Harry was ok and amused that Harry could attract trouble of all kinds.
Harry's growth in strength had been slowing rapidly by the time Harry was able to bench press two hundred and fifty pounds. A bodybuilder that Harry had befriended looked him over and told him that his build suggested that Harry's strength lay in his speed. Harry had no problems with that; speed was all he needed with his spells and his gunblade. In any case, Harry could always junction magic to his strength in emergencies.
The question is, how do I improve my speed without drawing attention? Harry asked that very question of the bodybuilder, and was answered with a shrug and an apology. It was only on the way home that he thought of magically enhancing the weight of his clothes. It worked before, Harry thought to himself. The weighted outer clothes Shugui had me wearing allowed me to move faster when I wasn't wearing them. Only problem is, I can't exactly use magic outside of Hogwarts… Harry suppressed the urge to curse. I'll just have to wait until then.
:So it would seem.:
Harry sighed and entered his relatives' house once more, silently wondering if some cosmic deity had taken offense to his existence. He was never quite sure, as he had had more than his fair share of good fortune at some times, while at others his luck just seemed to hate him.
Now faced with the fact that any physical improvements over the next several weeks would be minor at best, Harry decided to improve his mind. He spent less time at the gym – though he did agree to go bowling with the friends he made at the gym every weekend until his school began again – and more time improving his Occlumency and Legilimency in addition to studying.
Harry used his time dedicated to Occlumency to slowly, painstakingly create false memories and place them outside his shield. It was slow going, as Harry tried to view the memory from an outsider's perspective. Is there sufficient detail? Does it seem realistic with what Dumbledore did? Harry also tried to include unpleasant memories of being forced to work all the time over the summer. He could only hope that Dumbledore wouldn't pay a visit to the Dursleys.
When Harry thought about practicing his Legilimency, he couldn't believe he hadn't thought of it before. Legilimency could be practiced without a wand; though it was much more difficult. Harry knew that from experiencing Dumbledore's and Snape's wandless Legilimency as well as his own previous attempts, which had failed abysmally.
Harry was willing to bet that since he hadn't received a letter for practicing his Occlumency, Legilimency would fall under the same category if done without a wand. So, Harry set to practice against his relatives. It was not long before his attempts yielded some progress, thanks to the might of Harry's will.
After quickly memorizing the feeling his had when using Legilimency, Harry tried his best, at first barely feeling his victims' topmost emotions when he looked into their eyes – generally fear and anger from Vernon, a dull sense of complacency and maliciousness in Dudley, and fear and jealousy from Petunia. The last one confused Harry, so he generally focused on her, trying to find out just what she was jealous of.
As time went on, Harry slowly got better at using the mind arts as his focus developed, and was able to read surface thoughts. It was in that stage that Harry discovered, to his shock, that Petunia was jealous of his mother, Lily, and by proxy her son, Harry, because they had magical ability, and she didn't.
Vernon and Dudley were very simple, easily angered men who hardly bothered to think much except when it came to their own benefit. Even then, Dudley was quite thick in both body and mind. It was Vernon that Harry had to be wary of; he obviously hated Harry with a passion, and as such, Harry read him every once in a while to make sure he had no plans for Harry's demise.
Harry was quite proud of his progress, but on the twenty-seventh of July, he received an owl he hadn't seen before. Unsure of who it was from, he inspected it with his eyes as best he could, and finally saw the Hogwarts seal on the letter. Only slightly relieved, Harry took the letter from the owl, who took off after drinking a bit of Hedwig's water. Hedwig wasn't there to complain, as she was off delivering a letter to Hermione.
Harry opened the letter and read it aloud, his eyes widening in shock. It was in a loopy handwriting that Harry recognized as the same one that sent him the Invisibility Cloak.
I have excellent news for you. I understand that the Dursleys aren't exactly the best in their hospitality, so I have been working for some time to find a family to take you in for about half of the summer, starting the day after your birthday.
The Weasley family has volunteered to take you in, and they will be picking you up on August first at seven o'clock in the morning. I understand you may have a few troubles with their youngest son, but I have confidence that you can resolve it before term begins again in September.
Have a good summer,
Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore
"Sending me to the Weasley's? Well that's not too bad, Fred and George are all right," Harry said slowly. "So Dumbledore's the one who sent me the Cloak…"
"Can you not see what he is doing?" Seth asked. "He is placing you with a family that is no doubt completely under Dumbledore's thumb."
Harry's eyes widened as he faced his snake, who was lazing in a small patch of sun on the desk. "You're right," he said in realization. "He's trying to shape me into being his perfect follower, willing to do whatever he says! Thank you, Seth, for seeing what I could not."
"Where would you be without me?" Seth asked rhetorically before settling himself back down for a snooze.
"Long since dead, my good friend," Harry murmured before sitting down. "Well, now I know what the old coot's planning, and I know it won't affect me in the way Dumbledore wants since I know the truth, but it's going to be tough to act like it is. Fred and George are good blokes, but I still can't afford to tell them the whole truth behind Dumbledore. They trust him too much, and neither knows Occlumency."
He shook his head. Damn, how come things had to get so complicated? Before, it was nice. Kill a few monsters there, do a mission there, keep in touch with Balamb Garden and I was free to explore as I pleased. That was the good life. Now I'm back here, trying to learn this world's magic while deceiving my manipulative Headmaster and fighting Voldemort on the side. And to top it off, I still don't know where I can put a permanent portal.
:You'll find a suitable location soon,: Quetzalcoatl encouraged his host.
I hope so, Harry replied. It can't be too long, or else the monsters will be let in… After several moments of grim understanding, Harry went downstairs to inform his relatives of his soon departure.
"How will they be coming?" Vernon grunted.
Harry blinked. Dumbledore hadn't said in the letter. "I'm not sure. They didn't say in the letter."
"Well, they had better not do any of that freakish stuff in my house!"
Harry resisted the urge to rub his temples. But he knew by now that if he wanted to avoid a lengthy rant, he had to say… "Yes, Uncle Vernon." He returned upstairs to do some more reading.
Harry's birthday was completely ignored by the Dursleys, but apparently his friends remembered him, and sent him presents. There was Honeyduke's chocolate from Daphne, a box of sugar-free sweets from Hermione – her parents were dentists, said the note – a book titled Quidditch Through the Ages from Theo, and a book listing all the various Quidditch teams around the world with a self-updating list of players. Blaise's note said quite plainly that he did not want to hear another soliloquy from Theo about how the Wimbourne Wasps were the best. Harry had a long chuckle at that.
That night, Harry packed and prepared to go to the Weasley residence. He had already told his new friends at the gym that he was leaving and had one last outing to go bowling. Harry was getting pretty good at it. He fell asleep early that night so he could do his morning run before the Weasleys arrived.
The next morning, Harry woke up early, did his normal morning routine, and was ready in the living room by six forty-five. The Dursleys were the same way, dressed in their best clothes, though Dudley looked particularly fearful; the last time he'd come across a fully-trained wizard, he'd been frozen in place by the man's sheer power and his anger.
At seven o'clock, no one was there. Vernon looked out the window. "They're late!" he growled at Harry, who merely shrugged.
"I hardly even know these people," he admitted freely.
"Then why are they taking you in?" Vernon demanded, greed filling his mind. Is he paying them? That money should be mine!
Harry used a mild Legilimency probe and then drew back into his own mind, repulsed by Vernon's motivation. "I haven't the slightest idea."
At quarter past seven, the Weasleys still hadn't arrived. Vernon was now pacing the floor. Harry had been considering doing the same thing, but Vernon had gotten up first, and Harry didn't feel like sharing the floor with him.
Five minutes later, there was a great crash from behind the electric fireplace. Harry got to his feet, confused. There was an adult voice, though muffled. "What the…? Oof!"
There was a new voice, one he recognized. "What's going on, Dad?" It was Ron Weasley. "Is Potter's fireplace out of order or something?"
Another crash. "Oh, lookie, a party!" Fred – or George – said with false glee.
"Maybe Harry can hear us," Mr. Weasley said logically. "HARRY!"
Harry walked over to the electric fireplace. "Mr. Weasley?" he asked uncertainly. "Why are you back there? Scratch that, how did you get back there?"
"We took the Floo," the Weasley patriarch answered loudly. "Wizards can travel by fire to another fireplace if it's on the system. I had your house connected to the system just for the day!"
Harry rolled his eyes. Figures they'd try the magical way to a Muggle house. "Well, that won't work in this house," Harry explained. "My relatives use an electric fire. They blocked off the old fireplace."
"Can you unblock it?"
Harry glanced at Vernon, who appeared very red-faced. "No, I don't think we can."
"I see," Mr. Weasley said calmly. "Then, yes, that's the only way. Stand back, Harry!"
Harry wisely stepped back several feet, but Vernon stepped forward. "Now see here!"
Too late. "Reducto!" Mr. Weasley cried. The fireplace exploded outwards, spraying dust and debris everywhere. Vernon's immaculate black suit was now completely covered, and his mustache and hair were speckled with dust as well, making him look like he aged thirty years in an instant.
Four red-heads stepped out into the once-spotless room. The Weasley twins stepped forward. "Harry!" they greeted, pulling him to one side.
Harry grinned at his rival pranksters. "Fred, George! How are you two doing?"
"Pretty well," Fred answered.
"And yourself?" George questioned.
"Doing ok. How many pranks have you pulled this summer?"
Fred and George looked at each other. "Twenty-seven," they replied with a grin. "How about you? Pull any pranks on these Muggles?" George indicated Petunia and Vernon, who were reddening quickly despite Mr. Weasley's attempts at conversation, with a wave of his hand.
"Nah, we hate each other, but they can make my life hell if they want," Harry answered, his smile faltering. "So I'm bluffing that I can use magic, but I don't want to push them to test that theory." Trying to change the subject, he continued, "So, any ideas on how I'm going to be received by your family?"
"Well, Ron'll be a git as usual," Fred said wryly.
"Charlie's still in Romania with his dragons, so no worries about him," George pointed out.
"Bill's in Egypt doing his curse-breaking," Fred continued.
George frowned. "Percy will probably be stuck-up like normal, so you'll probably get a cold reception from him since you're a Slytherin."
"Dad's heard Ron's perspective and ours, but he said he'll reserve judgment until the end of summer," Fred added.
"Mum'll probably smother you with food," George said with a chuckle. "She really doesn't care too much that you're a Slytherin, since you're still twelve."
Fred grinned. "And that leaves Ginny."
"What about her?" Harry asked, curious.
"You'll see," George said with a grin identical to his twin's.
Before Harry could reply, Mr. Weasley said, "Harry, boys, it's time to go! Ron, you first."
Ron took a pinch of a green powder Mr. Weasley held out and threw it down in the fireplace, where a green fire erupted around him. "The Burrow!" he called out and the green fire rose up and consumed him. Harry raised an eyebrow. Mr. Weasley repeated the process with Fred and George.
"Harry, you're next," Mr. Weasley said, beckoning him over. "I understand you haven't done this before, but it's quite simple, really. Just take a bit of powder, throw it down in a fireplace, and call out your destination. Be sure to enunciate it very clearly, or else you'll get out at the wrong stop."
Harry nodded, not bothering to correct Mr. Weasley's assumption, taking a pinch of the powder and walking to the nearly destroyed fireplace. Suddenly, a hand on his shoulder stopped him. Harry whirled, ready to attack, but saw Mr. Weasley's face just in time. "Aren't you going to say goodbye?" Mr. Weasley asked of Harry's relatives.
Vernon's face purpled. How dare that freak try to make me say goodbye to the other freak? But Vernon's eyes went to Mr. Weasley's wand, and he nodded stiffly. "Goodbye."
"Later," Harry said with a nod, turning to the fireplace. He threw the powder down, and was surprised to feel only a gentle heat from the green fire. Some ash tickled his nose, but Harry resisted the urge to sneeze as he called out "The Burrow!"
After a whirlwind experience where Harry saw flashes of several other locations, he was practically launched out of the fireplace, landing on his stomach. Harry, who had not been expecting that, quickly got up. I should have rolled upon exit, Harry berated himself. I'm losing my touch.
Ron, Fred and George were still laughing at Harry, who rolled his eyes. "Yeah, yeah, laugh at the one who's only Flooed four or five times in his life." The comment only made them laugh harder.
They were just dying down when Mr. Weasley emerged from the fireplace with hardly any dust on him. "You get here ok, Harry?"
The three younger Weasleys started laughing again while Harry glared at them. He tried for the patented Snape glare of death, but it just didn't work on a twelve-year-old face. "Enough boys," Mr. Weasley said sternly. "Harry, welcome to our home."
Harry looked around. It looked and felt like a cozy little cottage. He could smell food cooking in the kitchen, and Harry smiled. This is the kind of home I'd like to have one day.
"I know it's not much," Mr. Weasley was saying.
"It's brilliant," Harry interrupted with a smile. The Weasleys beamed, with the exception of Ron, who frowned at Harry's seeming genuine appreciation. Thankfully though, he kept his mouth shut.
"Here, join us for breakfast," Mr. Weasley invited. "You must be hungry."
As a matter of fact, Harry had eaten before the Weasleys had come to fetch him, but he didn't want to turn away what was probably an olive branch from the head of the Weasley family. He smiled again. "Thank you, but I wouldn't want to be a bother…"
"Nonsense, Molly loves feeding kids, and she'll have my head if I don't insist on you joining us," Mr. Weasley said in a joking manner.
"Well, if you insist," Harry conceded, following the Weasleys to the dining room table.
A plump woman was bustling around the kitchen, waving her wand at this and that. "Hello Arthur, Fred, George, Ron." She turned to face Harry and smiled. "And you must be Harry Potter. Welcome to our home. Breakfast will be out in a minute. Will you be joining us?"
"He is," Mr. Weasley said before Harry could answer.
Mrs. Weasley smiled kindly then returned to the kitchen. Only half a minute later, she was setting food down on the table, food that smelled heavenly. "Time to eat!"
At that, there was a redheaded blur rushing down the stairs, but it froze at the sight of Harry Potter sitting at the table. Harry looked up and saw a petite redheaded girl with freckles which were quickly being covered up with an extreme blush. Why is she blushing? "I assume you're Ginny?" he asked with a smile.
Ginny's blush deepened as she nodded. Oh my God, HARRY POTTER is sitting at the table, smiling at me, and I'm wearing nothing but my PAJAMAS! She cursed herself for not dressing yet as she saw the properly-dressed forms of three of her brothers plus Harry. With a small squeak, she rushed back upstairs to throw on some normal clothes.
Harry blinked and turned to the sniggering forms of Ron and the twins. "What just happened?" he questioned, utterly confused as to Ginny's actions. Women… I'll never understand them. I'm a warrior, damn it, not a psychologist!
Ron's amusement abruptly died when he remembered just why he was amused. His sister, despite all his warnings, still had a crush on this Slytherin. She was so certain that Harry Potter was not evil. Ron glared at Harry, whose face held a mere hint of confusion.
Harry had been SeeD for long time, and as such he had perfected his poker face, revealing no emotion at all. He only dropped it when around his friends, but he hadn't needed the poker face for quite a while now. Harry had been expected to show emotion at Hogwarts, so he showed bits and pieces here and there to keep Dumbledore off the scent. As a result, his face when dealing with strangers or enemies – namely Ron Weasley and Draco Malfoy – no longer completely lacked emotion. Harry realized this belatedly as he found his facial muscles contracting into a tiny confused frown. Gonna need to work on that, but why the hell is Weasley glaring at me as if this is my fault?
Fred and George looked at each other while still sniggering before turning to Harry. "Ginny's got a crush on you."
"A huge one."
"One that's been building ever since Mum first told her a bedtime story about the Boy-Who-Lived."
Harry looked at the twins incredulously. "I'm a bedtime story?"
"You bet," Fred said with a smirk.
"It's all Ginny would ever ask for," George added.
Harry groaned. "Why me?" he asked, looking at the ceiling as if it could give him the answers. I'm famous as a gunblade-using SeeD on Terra, and I'm famous as the Boy-Who-Lived on Earth. I've got a homicidal dark wizard on the loose trying to kill me, a manipulative Headmaster trying to control me, fame I can't escape thanks to my lightning scar, and fan girls raised to think of me as some great savior. Could this get any worse?
It appeared as though the god of irony was listening, because he decided to make things worse. A blood-curdling scream echoed from upstairs, and Harry was instantly on his feet along with the Weasleys. "Ginny!" they said together.
Harry was closest to the stairs, and rushed up with the speed of adrenaline. No fucking way! Ginny was rushing out of her room, but in there was a spinning purplish wormhole.
Mr. Weasley had been right behind Harry, and gasped. "What the hell is that?" he demanded just as it closed up on itself and collapsed.
Thank God Odin was right; they only last a few seconds at first. "I don't know," Harry lied. I've got to find a place to put a permanent portal, and fast! But where? "We should check up on Ginny."
Mr. Weasley's eyes widened as he rushed back down, followed slowly by Harry, to see a Ginny in tears being held by her mother. Harry felt a pang of longing, but squashed it as he turned away. I may have no biological family… but my friends on Terra are my family.
After a quick glance down the stairs again, Harry lowered his eyes. This is a private moment, and I am a stranger here. He turned on his heel and sat in the hallway outside of Ginny's room, closing his eyes while he sat in the Lotus position.
He was interrupted from his meditation only a few moments later. "What are you doing here?" Ron's voice snarled.
Harry opened one eye. "I'm meditating here. Your family is having a private moment downstairs, and I'm fairly certain I would not be welcome. After all, had I a living mother, I'm sure I wouldn't want just any stranger to see me crying into her shoulder, especially at this age. Would you?"
Ron looked taken aback before he quietly whispered "No."
Harry looked Ron straight in the eye with his only open one. "Ginny needs her family right now. She just had the scare of her life, and you're the closest one to her age. Go to her. If you stay up here to fight with me, she may think you've abandoned her."
"I would never abandon her!" Ron argued angrily.
"So go make sure she knows that by being with her in her moment of need."
Ron turned on his heel and ran back downstairs. Harry closed his eye again with a sigh. He knew it was irrational, but he suddenly found that he missed having his own mother and father. If they had lived, maybe I would have had a brother or sister or two? Harry thought wistfully. I never would have lived with the Dursleys, never would have had to do all the chores, and I never would have felt the need to run away. I wouldn't have needed to sacrifice my innocence at so young an age… Harry opened his eyes again and looked at his hands. I wouldn't have needed to soak my hands in blood, both of monsters and humans. I wouldn't have started bringing the two dimensions closer, and I wouldn't have to deal with everything by myself.
:On the other hand,: Quetzalcoatl continued, :if they had lived, Voldemort would still have a body and be wreaking havoc. You would never have met Shugui and Squall and the others, and you almost certainly wouldn't have been prepared for Dumbledore's cruel manipulations. The world would have been a place of terror.:
Harry let out a long sigh. Yeah. At least this way we have an opportunity to prepare for Voldemort and the portals. And I have my family, my friends on Terra.
Even so, Harry couldn't shake the sudden jealousy that erupted towards the Weasley children, for their innocence and their parents.
The rest of the summer passed without incident, though Harry was careful to keep all senses peeled for any portals. He also devoutly read the Daily Prophet, the wizarding newspaper, just in case one appeared elsewhere. So far, things had been quiet, but Harry was uncertain if that was because there hadn't been any portals, or if the Ministry was hushing it up.
The Weasleys had contacted Dumbledore about the strange disturbance in their home, and the Headmaster had come over immediately to inspect it. Hearing that, Harry had prepared a false memory of the event consisting mostly of the facts, but changing a few emotions to make him seem confused.
Dumbledore had completely fooled Mr. Weasley into believing it was a freak incident, caused by Harry's mother's protective magic interacting with the minor wards around the Burrow. Harry had to admit that Dumbledore was very convincing; he would have convinced Harry if he didn't know the truth.
Harry, unfortunately, had no opportunity to train physically during his time with the Weasleys outside of his morning run. "It helps me wake up in the morning," he explained to a concerned Mrs. Weasley the first morning she saw him at it. "Besides, I want to stay in shape for Quidditch."
Thankfully, Harry had plenty of opportunity to test his Legilimency against the seven Weasleys available. Apparently his practice against his relatives and friends had helped immensely, as he was easily able to bypass their natural mental shields to read their emotions and surface thoughts. Harry was gratified to find that the Weasley family minus Ron and Percy thought of him kindly, though Ginny's thoughts centered on Harry. Harry still blushed at the feelings he had sensed in her when she looked at him.
Ron still disliked him immensely, but had the beginnings of respect for him, building since the incident the day he came. Harry's show of humanity – his acknowledgement of someone else's feelings and desire to respect others' privacy – had apparently put a sliver of doubt in Ron's anti-Slytherin bigotry.
Percy was polite but tried to avoid Harry whenever possible. A look into his mind revealed that Percy was unnerved by Harry's presence. Being a responsible bloke, Percy had done his best to avoid all Slytherins and had made several friends in Ravenclaw. His few encounters with the Slytherins had only proven his belief that they were to be avoided at all times. Harry was in Slytherin, and he was residing in Percy's longtime home, causing the prefect to be rather uncomfortable and wary of something happening. Harry reluctantly admitted to himself that he had good reason, and at least Percy was giving him a chance.
August 11th, the Burrow hosted Ginny's birthday party, which Harry took great pleasure in joining. It wasn't often he allowed himself to eat ice cream and cake, but birthdays and holidays were the only exceptions he made. Harry got her a nice necklace, which she stammered and thanked him for.
Then, a week before September first, the Weasleys plus Harry went shopping for their school supplies. Harry noted with a frown that the Defense position had required a complete set of Lockhart's books. He'll be earning a lot of money this way… He couldn't help but wonder who the new Defense teacher was.
Those thoughts were abruptly brought to an end when he heard Mrs. Weasley ask her husband how they were going to afford four sets of Lockhart's books. "I mean, Fred and George can share, they always do everything together," Mrs. Weasley was saying quietly away from her children. "But Percy, Ginny and Ron are in different years."
"We'll manage," Mr. Weasley assured her. "I'll have a chance to put in some extra hours and we don't need as much money while the kids are off at Hogwarts."
Harry had completely forgotten about their lack of funds in his stay; the family was so warm and welcoming, it was hard to imagine that they had financial trouble. He immediately felt a little guilty, having so much money here. He surreptitiously fell back from the others until he was walking in stride with the Weasley parents, who had quieted. "You know," he said quietly, "I forgot to get the twins a present this year. They never told me their birthday, though I think it happened in the middle of our prank war."
"April first," Mrs. Weasley answered with a smile.
"April Fool's Day?" Harry asked, stifling a laugh. "Somehow, I think it appropriate. I think I'll go ahead and get them the complete Lockhart set; it should be good for a laugh, since they don't think much of him anyway," Harry said, pretending to think out loud with a chuckle.
Mrs. Weasley huffed. "You haven't read his books! He's done so many marvelous things!"
Harry merely raised an eyebrow at her and shook his head, clearly saying "I'll believe it when I see it."
Harry caught back up with the other Weasleys, making sure to keep a distance from Ron and a smaller one from Ginny. He didn't want to hurt her feelings, but it was a bit uncomfortable having what amounted to a fangirl.
At Gringotts, they visited the Weasley vault first, and Mrs. Weasley scraped up what little there was. Harry felt an ominous sensation as the cart carried him and the others to his vault. He dreaded the reaction that would surely follow when they saw the riches in his vault.
Griphook announced Harry's vault, and when it opened, Harry did his best to quickly scoop a pile of Galleons, Sickles and Knuts into his Item Bag. He reentered the cart and waited for the inevitable tantrum Ron would have.
"Blimey, Harry," was all Fred said.
"Yeah," Harry said with a sigh. "My inheritance. What else could it be?" he added with a note of sarcasm.
"Hey, you don't need to bite our heads off!" Fred protested.
Harry sighed again. "Sorry, sore subject. I just don't like the idea that I got rich because my parents died." I'd rather have earned my riches, like I did on Terra.
That instantly killed the conversation. Even Ron, who had opened his mouth – no doubt to bad-mouth Harry – shut it. No one knew what to say next as they left Gringotts… that is, until they met up with Hermione and her parents.
"Harry!" Hermione called out.
"Hermione! How you doing?" Harry asked. "Have you kept up with your exercises?"
"I'm doing ok and yes," Hermione answered. "I hope you've finished your homework?"
Harry laughed. Same old Hermione. "Of course, I finished it in the first week I arrived at the Dursleys!"
"Good," Hermione said in satisfaction. "Have you read the book list? We'll be getting an entire set of Gilderoy Lockhart's books! And he's doing a complimentary book-signing at Flourish and Blott's!"
Harry rolled his eyes. It sounded as though Lockhart reveled in his fame, and that lowered him a few notches in Harry's opinion. Nevertheless, Harry and the others headed towards the book shop.
Mr. and Mrs. Granger pulled Harry aside about half-way there. "Harry, I understand you're responsible for getting our daughter to start exercising?" Harry nodded. "What I want to know is why."
Harry remembered the answer he had thought up for just this situation. "Not many wizards or witches keep in shape, so doing the exercises give her an advantage over everyone else, especially while dueling. Besides, it'll also allow her to defend herself if she loses her wand."
The Grangers looked at each other and nodded. "Ok," Mr. Granger said. "Between you and me, I'm glad you managed to get her out of her shell. I was getting worried that she would seclude herself from everything."
Harry smiled. "Yeah, well, she did most of the work. Not many Gryffindors are willing to give a Slytherin a chance. She's a wonderful person."
Hermione's parents beamed before waving Harry off to go buy his school supplies. When they reached the store, Harry looked around nervously; he had always hated being the center of a crowd's attention when not in a combat situation – he had little idea how to act, and constantly felt judged. The situation before him was the embodiment of that fear; the crowd inside Flourish and Blott's was huge, leading all the way to the back of the store. Harry's companions went inside immediately, but Harry hesitated before summoning his courage, taking a deep breath, and walking in.
At first, it wasn't so bad. Harry and the others each grabbed a copy of The Standard Book of Spell, Grade 2 and met up with the Weasley and Granger parents, who were waiting in line to meet Lockhart. "Oh, there you are, good," said Mrs. Weasley. She sounded breathless and kept patting her hair. Harry kept himself from snorting – barely – at her attitude. It's not like meeting this guy is what you really wanted in life, right? Harry thought to himself. "We'll be able to see him in a minute…" Mrs. Weasley continued anxiously.
Gilderoy Lockhart came slowly into view, and was apparently seated at a table. Surrounding him were large pictures of his own face, all winking and flashing dazzlingly white teeth at the crowd. Harry scowled. He looks absolutely full of himself.
"He looks absolutely full of himself," Ron whispered, and Harry whirled on him, shocked. "I mean, who would keep pictures of himself around him?"
"For once Weasley, we agree," Harry agreed reluctantly. "Makes you think he's trying to make up for something, don't you think?"
Despite himself, Ron laughed, quickly joined by the males in the nearby vicinity. The females all gave them withering looks, but not before Lockhart heard the commotion. He looked up, and saw the Weasleys – and then Harry. He stared for a moment. Then he leapt to his feet and shouted, "It can't be Harry Potter!"
Harry groaned. Just my luck. The one time I try to be humorous, I end up attracting the attention of what looks to be someone addicted to fame. The crowd parted, whispering excitedly, covering Harry's groan; Lockhart leapt forward and seized Harry's wrist, trying to pull him up front.
Harry's combat instincts took over and he immediately yanked back hard with the arm being held by Lockhart, lashing out with his other palm and slamming it into the egotist's chest. "Yah!"
Lockhart went flying back, releasing his grip on Harry's wrist. He crashed back into the wall, and slumped down, apparently unconscious. Harry had the sudden feeling of impending doom, and the source was… all around him! Harry very slowly turned around and felt the killing intent of every single female in the room.
:I believe this is the situation that calls for the phrase "Oh shit.": Quetzalcoatl remarked dryly.
Harry rubbed the back of his head, appearing sheepish. "Er… it was instinct?" he explained, more asking than stating. He swallowed hard. "I just don't like being grabbed," he added, now sounding a little more confident.
There was no response from the women, but the killing intent died down considerably, considering that most of them were mothers and could understand Harry's reaction. The fact that he was the Boy-Who-Lived helped immensely as well.
"Shouldn't someone Enervate him?" someone asked.
Seconds later, Lockhart was awakened. He shook his head and walked up to Harry, this time with some more caution. He extended a hand to shake, and Harry reluctantly shook it, trying to get it over with. He saw the photographer nearby clicking away madly, creating a thick purple smoke over the crowd.
"Nice big smile, Harry. Together, you and I are worth the front page," Lockhart said through his blindingly white teeth. After about half a minute, he let go of Harry, who was about ready to kill. Being the center of attention, something he absolutely hated being, was driving him to the point where he was ready to annihilate anything in his path to just get out of the damn bookstore, including Lockhart, no, especially Lockhart for putting him in this position.
Harry almost dove back into the crowd, but he was restrained at the last moment by Lockhart. He suppressed his impulse to just bring out a Thundaga spell, and just barely kept himself from throwing Lockhart over his shoulder into the streets. He was pretty sure the women wouldn't like that.
"Ladies and gentlemen," Lockhart said loudly, waving for quiet. "What an extraordinary moment this is! The perfect moment for me to make a little announcement I've been sitting on for some time!
"When young Harry here stepped into Flourish and Blotts today, he only wanted to buy my autobiography – which I shall be happy to present him now, free of charge –" The crowd applauded again, not noticing Harry's left eyebrow beginning to twitch. Hermione, however, spotted it and recognized the danger sign.
"Stay back, he's gonna blow!" Hermione hissed at the Weasleys.
"Who's gonna blow?" Ron asked.
"Harry! See that eyebrow twitching?" Ron did indeed. "That's the only sign Harry lets out before his anger expresses itself somehow."
"He had no idea," Lockhart continued, "that he would shortly be getting much, much more than my book, Magical Me. He and his schoolmates will, in fact, be getting the real magical me. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I have great pleasure and pride in announcing that this September, I will be taking up the post of Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry!"
Please, please let me kill him? Harry pleaded inside his head. I've got all the energy necessary for a Limit Break and everything! Please?! I need to get out of this place!
:No, Harry,: Quetzalcoatl said soothingly as Harry almost mechanically took the books presented to him. :If you kill him, you'll just become more famous, and then more people will try to control you.:
Can I maim him then?
:No, you'll just attract attention.:
How about putting his butt on fire? I won't let anyone catch me, I promise!
:I'm afraid not. You're not allowed to use magic outside of Hogwarts.:
What about when we get to Hogwarts? He just said he's a teacher there this year.
A pause. :I see no problems with that.:
Harry instantly started plotting mentally as he went outside, letting loose a cackle that Fred and George – who had followed Harry – were more than a little disturbed by.
"Um, Harry, are you ok?"
Harry turned to face them with a mischievous grin. "Fred, George! Just the people I wanted to see. What do you say to a partnership this year, with the main focus on one target?"
"Which one?" the twins responded together.
The twins grinned. "Deal!"
His anger now mollified with the promise of later retaliation, Harry turned his mind to other things. "Oh, I almost forgot." Harry dumped his books into the arms of the twins. "Missed your birthday, so I thought I'd get you something we could laugh over later. After all, none of us actually care much for the attention-seeking git, do we? And what do you know, Lockhart's books turned out to be on the school book list. Who knows, maybe you'll find some potential pranks in there too."
At the last sentence, Fred and George accepted the books immediately. "Bet you loved that, didn't you, Potter?" said a voice that Harry recognized instantly. He turned around and found himself facing Draco Malfoy, who was wearing his usual sneer. "Famous Harry Potter. Can't even go into a bookshop without making the front page."
Ron, on his way back when he heard Malfoy's comments, stopped, wanting to hear Potter's response. Ginny looked all set to answer, but Harry silenced her with a gesture. "In case your brain has had a hard time connecting the clues, let me lay it out for you," Harry said quietly, yet forcefully. "I hate my fame. I hate people who try to take advantage of their fame. I hate people who judge someone they haven't even met just because of their fame. And that's exactly what happened in there just now. Lockhart took advantage of my being there to boost his own ego and fame. He's even made it a requirement for Hogwarts students to have a set of his books, which will quite likely make him a hefty profit. And at the same time, he forced me into the spotlight, where I was immediately judged by whoever was in there. In total, I absolutely loathed the entire experience. And you know what? I'm still very angry over the ordeal. So if you want to keep your limbs intact, I'd recommend you walk away, right now."
It was quite possibly the longest speech Harry had ever made. Malfoy's jaw dropped; he hadn't heard Potter say as much to him in all of Hogwarts term as he did just now. Ron was just as shocked, and what's more, he heard the ring of truth in Harry's words. He mentally searched for something, anything in his interactions with him that would prove that Potter's words were false… yet once he looked at it all objectively, like he would a chess game, Harry Potter seemed to be a decent guy. Sure, he had trash-talked Ron before, but in this rare moment of objectivity, he realized that maybe he had deserved those tongue-lashings. Ron had never really given Harry a chance after he had showed a more open mind than Ron towards Slytherin house. Hufflepuffs and Gryffindors were supposed to be the more accepting ones…
Ron suddenly remembered the Sorting Hat's words as it sorted Harry Potter: "I'll have you know, Draco Malfoy, that this one would have had the Four Founders themselves squabbling over who would get him! You would do well to learn a few things from Mr. Potter here!" Maybe, just maybe, he's not all bad. After all, if Godric Gryffindor himself would have wanted him, then who am I, a member of his house, to drive him away?
Ron still didn't trust Harry, but he wouldn't try to purposely create conflicts between them either, not anymore. Just as he made this resolution, his dad came up from behind him. "Come on, Ron, let's go."
They met up with Harry, but as they did, an older-looking version of Draco Malfoy came out from behind a corner, placing his hand on Draco's shoulder, sneering in just the same way. "Well, well, well – Arthur Weasley."
"Lucius," acknowledged Mr. Weasley, nodding coldly.
"Busy time at the Ministry, I hear. All those raids… I hope they're paying you overtime?"
He reached into Ginny's cauldron and took out from the glossy Lockhart books Mr. Weasley had just put in, a very old, battered copy of A Beginner's Guide to Transfiguration. "Obviously not," Mr. Malfoy said distastefully. "Dear me, what's the use of being a disgrace to the name of wizard if they don't even pay you well for it?"
Mr. Weasley flushed, but Harry beat him to the punch. "And yet Mr. Weasley is still a more respected contributing member of society than you," Harry retorted. "He works hard in his job, making an honest living, while you merely throw your inherited money around to get what you want. I bet you've never worked a day in your life. If he's a disgrace to the name of wizard, what does that make you?"
Mr. Malfoy scowled and turned to face the new speaker. "Harry Potter. You would do well not to insult your betters."
"The same could apply to you," Harry replied coldly, not liking this character at all. "You may have money, but do you honestly think you have the support of the public? You, who people still suspect of being a Death Eater despite your plea of Imperius Curse?" He remembered that small detail from his friends' occasional ranting about the Malfoy family. "Never underestimate the power of the masses. I may hate my fame, but it has its uses."
"You're walking a dangerous path, boy," Mr. Malfoy hissed.
"Perhaps, but it is the path of my choosing. I let no one dictate my fate. Do you?"
Malfoy Sr. inexplicably clutched his left forearm even as he locked eyes with the Potter heir. He turned to Ginny's cauldron and dropped her transfiguration book inside. With that, he beckoned to Draco and swept from the shop.
"That. Was. Awesome!" a voice Harry recognized cried out. Turning around, he met the eyes of Theo, Daphne and Blaise. Theo was the one who had shouted.
"Hey guys!" Harry greeted. After a brief round of introductions, Harry's group of friends immediately began chatting to see how their summers went. Harry did a light scan of Legilimency to make sure their false personas were still up and in careful words let them know he was glad their shields were up. He had to be cautious of not letting slip the fact that they were still practicing Occlumency. After all, he could trust no one to keep it secret.
"So, what's with Weasley?" Daphne asked bluntly, jerking her thumb over in Ron's direction. "Normally he'd have at least insulted us by now."
Harry had been wondering the same thing. "Let's not question a good thing, shall we?" he reasoned.
Unfortunately, Theo hadn't been listening. "Hey, Weasley! Why aren't you bugging us?"
Ron gave him a half-hearted glare. "I don't see the point. As long as I don't have to associate with you or any other friends of Potter's, I don't care what you do."
Harry smiled softly to himself before quickly covering it up. He's maturing, if only a little. He and his friends spent some more time chatting idly while eating some ice cream at Fortescue's before they had to go home.
Finally, September first arrived. Harry was tapping his foot impatiently as the Weasleys ransacked the house for one thing or another. He had been packed for the last couple of nights, and the delay to the platform was irritating him. When they eventually made it to the train station, it was almost eleven o'clock, the departure time for the train.
"Two at a time, boys," Mrs. Weasley said hurriedly. Percy grabbed Ginny and got her through first, with the Weasley twins following directly after. The Weasley parents went through next, and without a word, Harry and Ron looked at each other.
Ron glared at Harry, which the Boy-Who-Lived translated as "I don't like you."
Harry rolled his eyes and jerked his head at the entrance to the Platform, saying quite plainly "I don't like you either, but this is more important."
Ron sighed and nodded, silently communicating his agreement. They then ran through the barrier and quickly got on the train, not looking at each other.
Author's Note: Remember that Dobby realized that Harry was hiding his true power, and just told him to be careful. He's not going to try to sabotage Harry… much.
Once the train started, Harry explained to his friends his plan to completely humiliate Lockhart this year, and half of his audience seemed to like it. Unfortunately, the other half – the female half – were now glaring holes through him. "Hey, I'm justified," Harry defended himself. "Didn't you see what he did to me in Flourish and Blotts? And can't you see that he's abusing his position by making his students buy a completed set of his works? He didn't even differentiate between the years!"
"You must admit Harry brings up a valid point," Blaise said calmly.
"Give him a chance!" Hermione pleaded. "He's done so much, he probably has loads to teach us from his books!"
"He's Gilderoy Lockhart, for crying out loud!" Daphne said with a subtle note of enthusiasm.
The three males of the group exchanged looks. Despite their vastly different personalities, there were some things they had shared the same opinion on, and Lockhart was one of them. They also knew full well that if they didn't agree, living with Hermione and Daphne would be very difficult. They just knew they were going to regret this, but if they wanted to keep life as simple as possible, they had to agree. "Fine," Harry answered for all of them. "We'll give him two weeks."
Hermione and Daphne shared a smirk. Harry hid a mischievously evil smirk of his own. Just because WE agreed to leave him alone doesn't mean I can't convince the Weasley Twins to prank Lockhart.
:You truly do deserve to be a Slytherin,: Quetzalcoatl commented.
Why thank you. Harry's thoughts were interrupted by the unexpected entrance of Draco Malfoy with his two goons. "What do you want?"
Draco appeared to be forcing himself to be calm. "Potter, I offer you one last chance: cast off your friends and join me in heading Slytherin. No one outside of Slytherin will truly accept you; surely you've noticed that by now. Join me, and I will show you the true way to power."
Harry sighed and shook his head. "Draco, you're getting better at the persuasion aspect, I'll give you that, but you need to accept that I am unwilling to just toss away my friends to join some twelve-year-old who was no doubt ordered by his father to gain the influence of the Boy-Who-Lived." Draco flushed with narrowed eyes, confirming Harry's suspicions. "As I said before, I let no one control me."
"Then I'll have to force you!" Draco concluded. "Crabbe! Goyle! Attack Potter's friends!"
Harry merely smiled. Crabbe had had the misfortune of choosing Daphne, who was merciless in her counterattack. A hard kick to the weak point of all men had Crabbe doubled over in pain before Daphne tripped him and placed her foot in the perfect position to put pressure on Crabbe's injury. Goyle, on the other hand, had chosen Blaise, charging at him. Blaise waited until the last moment and then grabbed the bulky brute's arm, spinning around in a circle to use Goyle's own momentum against him. When Blaise let go, Goyle slammed his head directly into a wall, where he crumpled.
Draco looked at his minions angrily. "What's the point of being wizards if you're not going to use magic?" he demanded. He whipped out his wand, only to find five pointing directly at him.
"Back off, Malfoy," Harry growled. "And stay out of our way this year."
Malfoy scowled and lowered his wand. Harry nodded at Daphne, who looked at the sweating figure of Crabbe. She pointed her wand at him as she stepped off of Crabbe. "Wingardium Leviosa." She levitated Crabbe over to Malfoy.
"Grab Goyle," Malfoy ordered. "We're leaving." Crabbe grunted and hefted his partner onto his shoulders and followed Malfoy out of the compartment.
"Well, now that Malfoy's out of the picture, who's up for some Exploding Snap?" Theo asked.
Dumbledore, in the meantime, was pondering his favorite subject: what to do with Harry Potter. The Weasley parents had stopped by only an hour ago as he had requested and Dumbledore wasted no time looking through their memories. He was quite pleased to view the event in Diagon Alley where Harry defended the Weasleys against the Malfoys. It seems as though the plan has worked; Harry is now enamored with the Weasley family. And thankfully, the youngest male Weasley appears to have stopped trying to cause fights with Harry. Now they can work together and I can, through the Weasleys, mold Harry into the complacent warrior I need.
Perhaps I should arrange for Harry and Ginny Weasley to get together? As a Weasley, she's sure to be a Gryffindor, and surely Harry would be more responsive to anything his girlfriend says. I can easily take care of any objections her parents may have. He's rich, he's loyal, and he'll be in love with her if I have to dose him with a Love Potion to do it! He's still a little young for that, though, so I'll wait until his fourth year.
Not long later, at the Opening Feast... Hmm, the Sorting Hat sings something different every year, Harry noticed as the hat finished singing.
:Well, it must be rather bored, just staying up in Dumbledore's office all year.:
True. Harry didn't pay much attention to the Sorting except when it reached a name he recognized. "Weasley, Ginevra!"
Harry watched attentively as Ginny quickly made her way to the Sorting Hat and put it on, but not before sneaking a glance at Harry. The seconds slowly passed, and everyone in the hall was getting confused, especially Ginny's brothers. She was a Weasley, wasn't she? All her family was in Gryffindor, so surely she'd follow, right?
After almost a minute, the Sorting Hat opened its brim-like a mouth to announce her house. "SLYTHERIN!" it declared.
Heh heh, don't kill me? Surely you may have noticed in the books that Ginny is just as mischievious as the twins, and much more cunning then them to keep out of trouble for it. My thoughts are, her cunning and bravery were about equal, thus leading to the conflict in the Sorting Hat. In canon, Ginny went to Gryffindor, and - hey, would you look at that - to her family and Harry. Since Harry, her crush, is in Slytherin, it kind of balanced it out between her desire to be with Harry and her desire to stay with her family.
Read and Review, please!