Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: Reduex
Throbbing pain and bleary darkness covered young Harry Potter. He hissed in pain as he carefully shook his head. Amazingly enough, his brains really didn't come tumbling out of his ears like they felt they would. It felt like his brain was too big, that it would not fit in his cramped skull.
Where was he? He felt too miserable to be dead, even if that is what he thought he should be after his latest encounter with Voldemort. He had been in the Department of Mysteries again. He'd felt himself be blasted into the many and varied Time Turners. Or was it the door that Dumbledore had told him contained a mysterious power? He couldn't quite remember.
With a groan, he sat up, smacking his head into something hard and wooden. "Ow. What is that?"
"Up! Get up!" his aunt suddenly yelled. The door to the cupboard under the stair suddenly sprang open as Harry reacted with old ingrained instincts.
He looked around in shock at his gigantic aunt. Everything was large!
Harry shook his head. No, he was small! So small, it wasn't even funny.
"Watch the bacon and don't let it burn. I want everything to be perfect for Dudley's birthday," the woman almost screeched. "Well, don't just stand there."
Harry hopped to, lowering the temperature on the stove so the bacon wouldn't burn. It was something he'd learned on many mornings of cooking breakfast at the Dursleys. Harry looked around the house while barely keeping an eye on the food.
It was exactly as he remembered, almost seven years ago.
"Get your head out of the clouds, boy!" his younger Uncle Vernon shouted. "And get a hair cut!"
The young boy nodded as he flipped the bacon and started cooking some eggs. He responded automatically while in shock. "Yes, Uncle Vernon." Not that it would do any good. It just was that way.
Vernon just looked back over the top of his newspaper in surprise. A mature response was not what he expected. He ducked back behind the paper.
Harry just went with the flow, with almost everything going as it had so long ago. Including being dragged to the zoo with Piers, Dudley's best friend.
But as Dudley attempted to get the Brazilian boa constrictor to respond, Harry just watched in bemusement. A few moments later, his cousin had wandered off to try for some better entertainment.
"Sorry about that," Harry said with a grin. He noted to himself that he must be talking parsletongue again.
The boa constrictor was quite polite in its reply. "I get that all the time." That confirmed it in Harry's eye. Now to change something.
"I'd better be off before my cousin comes back." And with that, Harry walked off to follow his tubby cousin before he noticed him talking to the snake. It was a minute later that he realized that he done it. He hadn't antagonized his cousin and he hadn't lost control, Vanishing the glass that kept the snake in its cage.
He had changed the past. Now if he could only figure out if that were a good thing or not.
Harry had a lot of time to think as the summer holiday finally came around. A day he'd been waiting so very anxiously for finally arrived with his aunt coloring his 'uniform' for the local school he was 'supposed' to be attending.
As the mail arrived during breakfast, Harry just grinned to himself as he hopped to his feet to go and get the mail. He'd taken to doing that without being asked for months, as it would make it easier to get his letter.
"Harry's got a letter!" Dudley suddenly noted as Harry was ripping open his letter from Hogwarts.
"It's my Hogwarts acceptance letter," Harry said calmly as he read through the letter. It was just as he remembered it.
His aunt dropped her plate into the sink, smashing it into a thousand pieces.
"What did you say, boy?" Uncle Vernon shouted in shock.
"It's my letter from Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft. They expect a reply."
"Mum! Harry's gone bonkers!"
Vernon snatched the letter away from him. "It must be someone playing a prank." He ripped it up immediately.
"Of course it isn't. It was addressed to me. It even mentioned my cupboard under the stairs."
"There will be no such talk of a school for Wizardry and Witchcraft! There will be none of that nonsense in this house!"
Harry looked at her very intently. "Then it's real? Maybe they can train me to keep those odd things from happening. And if it's a private school, I may have to stay there most of the year."
Vernon suddenly stood up. "We don't need them teaching you to-"
"-act normally at home?" Harry interjected. "If I got training, I bet I won't end up on top of the school again."
His aunt and uncle stared at each other for a moment. "It's too late now. I've already ripped it up," his uncle replied with a sneer.
"Oh, I'm sure they'll just send another letter."
Aunt Petunia just looked at the boy oddly. "You seem very assured of this."
His unnaturally green eyes, which remaindered her so much of her sister, looked at her very seriously. "I'm almost certain they will."
And that was that, for the day.
On the very next day, another letter from Hogwarts arrived, just as Harry expected and the Dursleys dreaded. Harry just sat at his seat at the table as Vernon got the letter. It was probably just better that Vernon felt he had control of the situation.
The older man read the addressed and blanched. He set his fingers as if he was going to rip it up again.
"They'll just send another owl." He berated himself for mentioning the owl the moment it sprang from his lips. He's not supposed to know about Wizarding society!
Uncle Vernon glanced over at his wife for just a moment, but she wouldn't meet his gaze. "Will they?"
"They might. Those awful people might even come here." She started scrubbing the pan she was cleaning. It was already really clean. Sparkling clean, in fact.
Dudley just looked confused. "I don't get it. Why are you making such a fuss about him?" He looked like he was about to set himself to cry.
"We'll just have to reply then." He turned on Harry suddenly. "We aren't paying for you to go to some ruddy magic school!"
Harry nodded as he blinked in surprise. They weren't fighting it nearly as much as he remembered. Why were they acting a bit differently this time? It must be something he'd done, but he couldn't think of what he done so differently?
Just a few days later, the Dursley's house was again interrupted during breakfast. Harry was ordered to answer the door, as it seemed he always was. He opened it to find an unexpected figure dressed in normal black witches robes.
"Good morning. You are Harry Potter?" Minerva McGonagall said with her severe expression. Harry knew her a bit better than she realized. There was a small twinkle in her eyes at meeting him.
"Yes, Ma'am." He made a show of looking her up and down. "That's an odd outfit."
Professor McGonagall smiled winterly. "It's what a witch normally wears. I am Professor McGonagall, Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts. I received a letter from your aunt and uncle. They seem to harbor some questions about you attending Hogwarts. I am here to meet with them."
"Oh. Please come in." Harry stepped back and called out, "It's the Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts. She's here to see you, Uncle."
"I see, boy. I just want to make one thing certain. I will not be paying for his unnatural schooling! We do not hold tuck with that nonsense here." Vernon's fat face was alternating pale and florid.
"Payment for his school and supplies has already been handled." She nodded at Vernon's expression of relief. "All that needs to be handled is a qualified witch to take him shopping for his supplies and then delivering him to King's Crossing so that he may board the Hogwarts Express that will take him to school this year."
Vernon looked surprised at this. "We don't have to pay for anything?"
"It is being handled from a trust fund from the Potter Estate."
"Very well." Vernon Dursley's face was lit up with the possibilities of not having Harry for almost the entire year. They could be totally normal now! Potter Estate?
"Headmistress? When can we go and get my supplies?" Harry asked.
"Deputy Headmistress, young Mr. Potter. And if your guardians agree, you can come with me and another student this very day."
His uncle gave him a stern look. "And they'll teach him not to have incidents?"
"Yes, of course. Hogwarts is a very prestigious institution."
"Very well. You can have him for the day then."
Harry fell in a heap from the whirling vertigo of the Portkey. "What was that?" Harry said with only a bit of acting to appear confused. He looked around to see a very pleasant and nice house with a larger yard than any on Privet lane.
"That was a magical Portkey to transport us around. It is useful as it allows for taking more than ourselves places in a hurry." Minerva looked at the house critically. This house looked so blandly normal. Two in one day. "Come along, Mr. Potter. The Grangers are expecting us."
Harry's throat suddenly constricted. Grangers? He ducked behind the professor as she rang the doorbell. A very familiar, bushy haired girl answered the door.
"Hello? Mum, there's a... lady here."
"You are Hermione Granger? I am Deputy Headmistress McGonagall of Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft. Pleased to meet you. May I come in?"
"Hogwarts is real?" the smallest Granger asked.
"Yes, and you, young lady, are a witch."
"My daughter is not a witch," a very firm, female voice said angrily.
McGonagall looked surprised at this. She pulled out a sheaf of papers from somewhere on her. "Of course she is. This is the same girl who made her birthday cake explode last year, isn't it?"
Mrs. Granger suddenly looked far less sure of herself. "She didn't cause anything. There must have been something in the cake to cause it to explode. Magic isn't real."
"Ah, of course. You are Muggles that have never dealt with the Wizarding ways before. I can explain this easily to you. May I sit down?" Professor McGonagall asked.
"Of course. I am terribly sorry for my lack of manners." She was gestured into the room. Mrs. Granger looked awestruck as the transfiguration professor conjured up a plushy chair of red plushiness and immediately sat down.
"Magic, of course, is real. Only wizards and witches can do magic. If they aren't trained to control themselves, they cause small accidents to happen around them. Like Miss. Granger's cake last year."
"Our daughter isn't evil! She can't be a witch!"
"Evil? Oh, that silly superstition!" The witch just had to laugh at that. "Being able to cast magic has nothing with making a person evil. Your daughter is just going to have a very special education to teach her the skills she needs to function within Wizarding society." McGonagall gave her best smile. "From her Muggle school records, she's a very bright and attentive student. I'm sure she will fit right in at Hogwarts."
"But it is for her best?" Hermione's mother asked.
"Oh, yes. She really does need this to be able to not hurt herself with her gifts."
That was the straw that broke the back of that resistance. The Granger's would move Heaven and Earth for their little girl's safety. Harry stood in the background as quietly as possible while they discussed the cost of her education. Harry was surprised to learn that Hogwarts cost quite so much in Muggle money. It was decided that Mrs. Granger would accompany them to Diagon Alley today.
"Are you ready, Potter?" Professor McGonagall asked.
"Yes, professor." Harry silently cursed himself. He hadn't meant to fall into old habits so quickly.
Hermione and her mother blinked as they quickly took in the small, scruffy boy wearing too large clothing. Harry decided to introduce himself quickly. "Hello, I'm Harry!"
"Hello, Harry. This is my daughter, Hermione. Say hello to the nice, young man," Mrs. Granger told her daughter.
"Hello, Harry. Nice to meet you," she replied very politely, seemingly very shy.
"Well, let's be off. We have only a few moments until we have to use the portkey to go to Diagon Alley." Professor McGonagall held out a tattered mitten.
"Again, Professor?" Harry said, holding his stomach.
"Yes, Potter. Professor Dumbledore always manages to get special dispensation to cast the Portkey charm for the Muggle-born or Muggle-raised. That way I can finish guiding the new parents and students before the end of the year. Hold on tight, we don't want to lose anyone over London."
With a gut-wrenching stomach twist, the four travelers landed in Diagon Alley, in front of Gringotts Bank. Harry and Hermione picked themselves up and then helped her mother to her feet.
"My goodness. That was a bit unpleasant," Mrs. Granger said. "But very fast, I must say so."
They entered Gringotts to turn Mrs. Granger's Muggle money into Galleons and Sickles. Harry just stayed in the back.
"Potter? You will need to access your family's vault to pay for school." Professor McGonagall gestured him over. "This is your key."
Harry looked at the key oddly. He'd never asked how Hogwarts had come into possession of the vault key before. "What do I have to do?"
"We'll just get a guide to take you to your vault. Mrs. Granger, would you mind waiting here with your daughter?"
Harry noted the slightly scared looks that the female Grangers had. "I don't mind if they come along."
"Are you sure, Mr. Potter?"
He nodded emphatically. "It's just a walk, isn't it?" he replied incorrectly on specific purpose.
"Er, actually, you have to take a cart. But it is safe enough."
Mrs. Granger piped up, "We really appreciate the offer. I don't feel quite comfortable on our own up here." And with that, the four of them were loaded into a cart with a guide and shot down into the depths of the earth. Professor McGonagall actually gave a small lecture on the Goblins and how Gringotts was probably the safest place in the world for things to be kept, barring Hogwarts. It seemed to relax Hermione and her mother.
In a short while, they ended up in front of the Potter vault. Harry opened it with his key and went in. He grabbed more Galleons than he figured he would need. It was a little inconvenient to get to Diagon Alley for more money. A thought occurred to him, he'd never actually checked out the vault for what was all kept here. He took a minute to root around, finding a small chest buried under a pile of Sickles.
"Potter, are you all right in there?" Professor McGonagall asked from outside the vault.
"Yes, Professor. I just noticed a chest in here. I was hoping it might have had some of my parent's things in it," Harry replied. He reached for his wand, before remembering he hadn't purchased it yet! With a shrug, he pulled the chest out with him.
The Goblin locked it behind him, eyeing the chest curiously.
The rest of the day was spent purchasing robes and other supplies. Harry was quite relieved when he got his wand. He managed to get Ollivander to not go too far into the information about his wand. That was a bit of a trick, but the wizened wizard seemed to understand that Harry didn't feel comfortable about talking about Voldemort. He had never felt quite so naked without it. He was a bit disappointed that it didn't send out quite as big a gout of sparks as Hermione's wand did.
He was happy when Hermione started opening up, especially when she had asked Professor McGonagall for books that would help her understand Wizarding society a bit more. Harry was amused to learn that McGonagall thought that Hogwarts: A History was probably the best resource for her. Harry searched around for a long time, finally finding several very advanced books. He would go nuts if he just learned the basics again.
"Harry?" Hermione piped up suddenly. "You come from a magic family?"
Harry had to think of how to respond. "I was raised by my Muggle relatives."
"Oh, what happened to your parents?" she asked.
Harry paled. He noted that Professor McGonagall was listening intently to Mrs. Granger right then. "My parents were killed by an evil Wizard."
Hermione squeaked in terror, clutching her fists to her mouth. "Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't know that."
"I was too young to remember. I've lived with my aunt and uncle since then."
Hermione looked terribly vulnerable and just nodded. "Do you have any friends?"
"No, everyone at my old school thinks I'm a freak."
"Mine too! How about we be friends then?" She gave him a stunning smile of pure innocence.
"Sure!" Harry felt a terrible relief. Now if he could just make sure that he met and fell in with Ron.
Hermione reached into her pocket and pulled out a piece of paper and pen. She scribbled a note. "Write your telephone number on the other part and rip it in half."
Harry followed her instruction and then handed her his phone number back. "Professor McGonagall?"
"Yes, Mr. Potter?"
"Do we have enough time to look at getting a pet like you mentioned in your letter?" Harry felt a twinge that Hagrid wouldn't be able to buy him Hedwig, but he really wanted to make sure that he had his pet owl soon.
"Of course! How could I forget? We have just over an hour to finish up our shopping here. It's right over there."
Harry and Hermione dashed into the pet shop as only ten year olds are wont to do. Harry looked around intently for a familiar white owl. He finally spotted it. "Excuse me, sir? How much for that owl?"
"That's a very nice owl, indeed. One of the smartest and most loyal ones around, if I dare say so. It will be twenty Galleons for it." The proprietor looked a bit shocked as the scruffy little boy immediately pulled out the proscribed amount. "Well, there you go. I'll throw in some owl treats for free. She will be quite a nice bird to deliver letters for you."
"Letters?" Harry asked, even though he knew about owl mail.
"It's how Wizards send messages."
Harry nodded, even as he walked over to where Hermione seemed to be looking at different toads. "You like toads?" he asked, bewildered.
She shook her head in the negative. "No, it's just all I can afford. And I want to have a pet. It's either that or that funny looking kitten."
"He looks far more cuddly than a toad, though."
Hermione asked the proprietor about the cost and was shocked to learn that he was over a Galleon more expensive than what she had.
"Don't worry, Hermione. I'll get him for you. You can consider it a birthday gift."
"That's far too much for a gift. I couldn't!" Hermione seemed to be blushing profusely. "Besides, my birthday isn't until September!"
Hermione decided to name her cat Ginger. Harry wasn't sure of what to make of that. Although he was pretty sure that it was Crookshanks, just as a very young kitten. Still kind of squashed and bowlegged looking.
As soon as Harry was back, he was in for another shock. He had been moved into Dudley's second bedroom. All he could get out of the Dursleys were that he might be a little too big to fit under to cupboard any more.
The next day, he heard the telephone ring and was surprised when his aunt called down for him. "Harry, the tele is for you!"
Harry excitedly picked up the phone. "Hello?"
"Hello, Harry! How are you?" the excited girl on the other side of the phone asked.
Harry and Hermione chatted for a little while. Harry was starting to hear more of the confident Hermione that he was used to. It seemed to be mostly because Hermione had started to read through all of her books to find out about the Wizarding world. She was becoming more comfortable with it once she could read up on it.
"Boy! Get off the phone! I need to call Mrs. Jules about that scandalous laundry hanging from in that hussies' yard."
"I'll owl you soon," Harry said. "Bye!"
Harry went back up to his room to check out the trunk he had found. It had taken him quite a bit of work to open it up, but inside he found several books that looked to be schoolbooks. There was a whole stack of scrolls. Inside it he found several essays on how to make items. Several of the things looked to be things that he remembered the Weasley twins working on. Prank items!
So this was a Marauder chest. At coming across a blank parchment, Harry grinned. He tapped it with his wand. "I solemnly swear I am up to no good!" A familiar scrawl of greetings led to another map, showing the mostly empty corridors of Hogwarts. "Mischief managed!" he finished. He dug a bit deeper and found some truly interesting books that he thought might have been used to make the map. In the very bottom, he found an old wand, worn and frayed.
Harry took a few hours to familiarize himself with the first level of spells. With a mental note, he planned on going over his potion's book very thoroughly. He then pulled out a few of his advanced books.
Harry hadn't figured out exactly what he was going to do, but if Voldemort could be stopped while he was still so weak then that would be best.
He could save Sirius. But that would require finding out how to force an Animagus to go back to his original form.
And what about Dobby? He didn't want to leave the poor house elf stuck at Malfoy Manor!
With a sigh, he pulled out a quill and started writing a letter. It was kind of different to be a friend with someone before going to Hogwarts. And Hermione would probably think it very neat that she could write letters and send them with Hedwig.
The weeks until September 1st couldn't come fast enough. But soon enough, Harry was loaded into Uncle Vernon's car and driven to King's Crossing very early and left to make his way to the Hogwarts Express. He glanced around casually and then pulled him and his cart through the wall.
In front of him, the red train was just pulling up. He nodded to the conductor as he worked on pulling up his trunk and owl cage with him. He settled in early to wait for Hermione in the car, just like they planned. It really wouldn't have been smart to just hang around until the Weasleys had shown up. Very carefully, he brushed his hair over his scar. He wanted people's first impression to be of Harry, not the Boy Who Lived. He leaned back with a sigh. Hermione said she was going to meet up soon. So he'd relax for a minute until she got here.
"Oh, there you are Harry! I found this spell, just for you! Repario!" Hermione cried the instant she found Harry, instantly repairing his glasses to shiny newness.
Harry started from his dozing. "Give me some warning next time!" He shook his head. "How are you?"
"I'm fine. Can I sit here?" she asked as she plopped down. They started a discussion, with Hermione wondering a bit nervously about what Hogwarts would really be like. She talked about all of the houses, but Gryffindor in particular.
About ten minutes before the train was scheduled to leave, a redhead stuck his head in the door. "Blimey, there are no unoccupied cars!"
Harry grinned. "There's room in here for at least one more! I'm Harry!"
Hermione looked surprised. Harry hadn't greeted anyone else who had stuck his or her heads in looking for a place to sit. "I'm Hermione."
"Ron." The boy took a moment to get his truck up in the carrier. "So you're first years at Hogwarts, too?"
Hermione started to go into everything that she'd learned about Hogwarts, while Ron mentioned that his older, twin brothers had told him that he had to fight a troll to get sorted into the houses.
Harry just smiled at that. "I don't think we have to fight a troll."
"Really? Oh, man. I'm always falling for Fred and George's pranks," Ron bemoaned.
With that, the train left the station. It wasn't too long until Harry bought what seemed to be the greater part of candy cart for both of his friends.
Harry noted in surprise that Malfoy never showed up. It took him about an hour into the trip to realize that because he hadn't told Fred and George who he was, it hadn't been circulated that he was on the train.
The trip was very uneventful and passed with cheerful chats about their new lives.
Hagrid led all of the first years into the small boats, across the lake and into the depths before Hogwarts. Harry was watching it all from an older perspective. Why come across the lake? Was it part of the rituals that protected Hogwarts?
Harry suddenly felt a pang of remorse. He hadn't had to be rescued by Hagrid this time. So he'd lost one of his best friends because of his meddling. He would have to figure out some way to meet him in the future. He just had to.
In no time, they were in the main hall, listening to the Sorting Hat song. Harry clapped enthusiastically when Hermione was sorted into Gryffindor. In no time at all, he had the hat on his head. He felt a subtle probe into his mind. Harry unconsciously blocked it.
"Eh? What's this, a keen, defensive mind?" the Sorting Hat said to him.
Harry just thought very hard about being in Gryffindor.
"You have to let me in, if you want to be sorted properly!" the hat explained.
Cautiously, he let it in. Please don't tell anyone what you find, he pleaded silently.
"Well, well. It's obvious it's going to be Gryffindor!" the Sorting Hat shouted the last word aloud. Good luck, Harry Potter.
"Is he really Harry Potter?" everyone seemed to be saying as he walked over to Gryffindor's table. The Gryffindors were ecstatic about having the famous Harry Potter in their house. Harry suddenly felt a stabbing pain through his scar. Voldemort must be staring at him from the back of Quirrel's head! Harry grimaced as he sat down. He smiled over to Hermione and looked back up to the front. In no time at all, the rest of the first years were sorted. A huge cheer went up when Percy, Fred and George's brother was sorted into Gryffindor. Ron was beaming as he sat down next to Harry.
"You didn't tell me you were Harry Potter!" Ron exclaimed in shock.
"I don't want people to know me as the Boy Who Lived, I want them to know me as Harry," his friend said very firmly.
The other three Weasley boys looked quite impressed by that. They introduced themselves, along with a large amount of the other Gryffindors.
After the feast and the announcements, they all went up to their common rooms behind the portrait of the Fat Lady.
Harry had a modestly boring week by his standards, but he supposed to the other first years that this would be fairly hectic. Ron and Hermione had taken to following him, as he seemed very adept at getting from one place to another in the castle.
They didn't seem to totally like each other, as Hermione's cat had tried eating Scabbers once already. Ron had forgiven her finally, after she had told him she really didn't mean to let it out without warning him. Ron had accepted her apology rather gracefully, Harry thought. And Scabbers was not really in any danger at this point. Ginger was a bit young now and didn't seem to be very adept at hunting rats.
Ron whispered to Hermione as they walked along towards their double-potions on Friday. "Doesn't it seem a bit odd how good he is at this?" Ron gestured at Harry opening a particularly tricky door that had hidden itself as part of the wall.
Hermione nodded with a smile. "Well, yes. A bit. But we're really learning how to get around from him, aren't we?" And that was enough for that smart witch.
The door led down a steep flight of steps and into the dungeon. They were the first to arrive in Snape's class.
Professor Snape fluttered into his class just as the class was supposed to start. He stared at all of the students and went into his speech about the beauty and intricacies of potion making. The part Harry dreaded finally arrived, as Snape lambasted their 'celebrity'. Harry had put a lot of thought into this. He would not blame Snape, yet, for murdering Dumbledore. He would not trust him, but he would not go out of his way to antagonize him either. Perhaps he could somehow salvage this meeting.
"Potter!" said Snape suddenly. "What would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?"
Harry licked his lips worriedly as Hermione started to raise her hand high above her head. He mustn't sound too smart, but he wasn't going to let Snape make a fool of him either. Luckily, he had prepared a bit for this. He'd been surprised that he remembered most of it from his original studies. "I think asphodel and wormwood make a sleeping potion, sir." His occulemancy shields as strongly as possible.
"Yes, a sleeping draught known as the Draught of Living Death. Let's try again. Potter, where would you look if I told you to find me a bezoar?"
He made a pretense of thinking very hard. "Isn't a bezoar a stone taken from the stomach of a goat?"
"That protects you from most poisons. What is the difference, Potter, between monkshood and wolfsbane?" Obsidian eyes glittered angrily from his sallow features.
"Monkshood and wolfsbane are the same plant!" Harry said truthfully. He would not add its third name, to make a minor 'mistake.'
"It also goes by the name of aconite, as anyone with half a brain would know. I am impressed, Potter. You seem to have tried to read up on this ahead of time. But you managed to miss at least one important fact each time. Well? What are you all waiting for? Why aren't you writing this down?" Snape snapped to the rest of the class. He seemed particularly upset.
He set everyone into pairs. Harry was surprised when he ended up with Hermione, not Ron. But that must have been because they had moved around a bit and Hermione was sitting right next to him.
Neville managed to ruin his potion again, but Ron had kept it from melting his cauldron. That was one thing that was lucky. Snape only took a single point from Gryffindor this time around.
Later that date, he got an invitation to go and meet Hagrid. Harry had hoped that something like this would happen. He looked around the common room to see Hermione talking to Ron. He walked up and interrupted as best he could. "Hello! I've just got an invitation to go meet with Hagrid down at his hut."
Ron kind of looked confused and glanced over at the bossy girl. "Er, Hagrid? Isn't he the groundskeeper?"
Harry nodded. "He's asked that I come down to his cabin. Something about being a friend of the family or something. And, well, I'd like you to come with. Just for a little while."
"I don't know. He's kind of intimidating." Hermione seemed to think it not a very good idea to visit the wild-looking man.
"Well, that's why I want you to come along. Please?"
And with that, Harry was 'introduced' to Hagrid. Hermione seemed to think he was a bit daft, but a fairly nice fellow. Harry did make a comment about the Gringotts break-in happening on his Birthday. But Hagrid had huffed a little bit about the empty vault. A vault that had been emptied just a couple of days previously, actually.
Harry wanted to grill him, but he had no reason to 'suspect' that Hagrid had taken the Philosopher's Stone from that vault. He hadn't even been able to get Hagrid to mention Flamel this time.
Hermione gave him a look as they entered the common room.
"See you later, mate!" Ron said as he moved over to watch Seamus and Neville playing Wizard's Chess.
"Harry? Why did you lie in potions today?" Hermione demanded bluntly.
The young man gaped like a fish out of water. "What do you mean?"
"I happen to know for a fact that you had just read up on wolfsbane in our potions book yesterday. So why didn't you tell Professor Snape all of its names?" Hermione had that stubborn look that she was not going to be denied. "We could have earned some points for our house!"
"I, I, I can't say here. Besides, Snape would never give Gryffindor house points." Harry looked around intently. There were just too many people in the common room. Where could he go where they definitely couldn't be over-heard? Of course! "Come on! I know just the place." He mentally thought to look for a particular vanishing cabinet. It needed to have an accident, he thought to himself.
Just a few minutes later, they were walking up and down a deserted hallway on the seventh floor.
"Harry? What are you doing?" the smart, but very confused witch asked.
"There it is!" the boy replied.
"What is? That door wasn't there just a moment ago!"
"This is the Room of Requirement. I desperately needed a private room, where I could talk to you and no one can overhear us. Come on!" Harry opened the door, leading into a short hallway with another door. He closed the door behind them and heard it click. "Oh! You can lock the door from this side! He went to the next door and opened it, showing a small office, with a couch and a cozy fireplace. "And this door locks from the inside too."
"Harry? Why are you being so mysterious? You're starting to scare me!"
"I'm really sorry. I'm not meaning to scare you. It's just; this is so secret that I can only trust you with it." Harry was busy thinking over time. "Do you know what a Timer Turner is?"
The bushy-haired witch thought about it for a second. "No, I don't. Does it keep track of time better than a regular watch?"
"No, it allows you to travel through time."
"You're joking me! What does this have to do with you not answering those questions of Snape?" Hermione looked at him distrustingly.
"The very first time I sat in Snape's class, I didn't know a single one of those answers. You did, because you're the brightest witch in our class. I'm not surprised that you caught me." Harry ran his fingers through his rumpled hair.
"So you used a Timer Turner just to answer some questions right on the first day of school?" she asked disapprovingly.
"No. I remember the next seven years of my classes here in Hogwarts. That's why I made sure that to make friends with you and Ron. You are both the best of friends I could have ever had."
"But you just said-"
"A Time Turner allows you to physically travel back in time. But during a fight in the future, I think I smashed into a whole bunch of Time Turners. And instead of sending me back a seventeen year old, it just sent back my mind into the me, now!"
"If you're a seventh year, then you can do some really amazing magic!" Hermione countered.
"So you want me to prove it now?" Harry asked with a grin. At her nod, he pulled out his wand. "Oldrafuths Untimos-legalomon!" Harry said with terrible concentration as he gestured his wand in front of them. A full sized chair appeared in front of him. It was wooden and didn't look the sturdiest in the world. But it was definitely a chair. "I'm not as good as you were, you can make a full couch appear, with plush cushions." That had been harder than it should have been. It appears his body and magic wasn't developed quite enough yet for really powerful magic.
Hermione just stared at the chair as she ran her fingers over it. "Something else? Please?"
Harry nodded with a smile on his face. With another intense look on his face, he transfigured the chair into dog. He pet the dog for a moment before dispelling it.
"Wow, Harry. That is just so amazing. Wait, you mentioned you were fighting someone?" she looked a little confused.
"Voldemort, the wizard that killed my parents and gave me this scar." He tapped the scar on his forehead. "He's very weak right now, but he's trying to steal the Philosopher's Stone that Hagrid took from that vault."
Hermione looked very afraid. "The Philosopher's Stone? But that's a very powerful item!"
"It can grant you eternal life-" Harry suddenly whipped his head around. "Stupify!" he shouted suddenly, hitting a small, scurrying figure with a red ray of light. "Oh, no! I hope that wasn't Scabbers! If he overheard that, we could be in real trouble."
"Scabbers? He's just a rat!"
Harry breathed a sigh of relief as he saw the stunned rat. He picked it up and examined its forepaw. "No, actually, he isn't. He's a murderer that betrayed my mother and father to Voldemort. This isn't him, luckily. Not Scabbers. He's got all his toes."
"You should go and tell Dumbledore." Hermione was in her best bossy mode. "This is too important to not tell him."
Harry gave her a very serious look. "I don't trust Dumbledore. He held out on me for five years before telling of the prophecy that got my parents killed." Harry threw himself onto the couch.
"A prophecy? Really?" Hermione's eyes lit up at the mention of new knowledge.
"I really shouldn't say. It's too-"
"I thought you said I was the most trustworthy friend you had? And now you don't trust me?" Hermione looked a bit hurt.
The eleven-year-old Harry looked at her very seriously. He could never let her be hurt. Especially by himself. "You're right. Even when Ron turned his back on me during the Tri-Wizard Tournament, you were still there for me." He took a deep breath. "The divinations teacher, Telawny, said a real prophecy back before I was born. That a boy would be born that would be the one to bring defeat to Voldemort. That was me, don't you see? He attacked my parents just to get to me. His curse backfired on him, but he barely survived."
"Oh, that's horrid." Hermione could tell that this was hurting him to open up like this.
"That isn't all the prophecy said. It said that only one of us would live. That one would have to kill the other to live."
Hermione hugged the emotionally hurting boy, startling him. "Oh, Harry. I'm so sorry. That has to be rough. And he's trying to kill you right now?"
"No, he's just trying to regain a body. He's very weak now. He's almost a ghost, but he's still alive. He needs that stone if he's to recover a body this year. Luckily, it's very safe right now. He wasn't able to get past all the protections until almost the end of the year. And, he doesn't know the full prophecy yet."
"So, everything is going almost identically to the way you remember it?" Hermione looked quite happy with the logical puzzle in front of it.
"No. It isn't. And it scares me. Hagrid didn't rescue me from my family and Professor McGonagall was the one who took me to Diagon Alley. I met you before we even got on the train. We're better friends right now. We didn't become friends until Ron and I rescued you from a Troll that Quirrell let into the castle on Halloween."
"Quirrell? But he's a professor! He'd never-"
"He's got Voldemort in his head. I mean literally. If you were to take off his turban, you'd see him on the back of Quirrell's head!"
Hermione screeched at that image. She'd read enough of the rise of Voldemort to know how terrifying he was. "So he's in Hogwarts right now?"
"Yes. But I can't kill him in his state. There are items that need to be destroyed first," Harry bemoaned. Damn those Horcruxes.
"Well, Harry, we'll just have to figure it out together. That's what best friends are for."
He gave her a very intense look of gratitude. "Best friends, forever? Right?"
Hermione looked worried as she and Neville read the notice on the board about learning to fly on brooms on Thursday. With the Slytherins, of course. Harry looked on it very casually.
"Say, Ron? Have you ever ridden on your older brothers' broom?" he asked.
Ron nodded happily. "I snuck away on Charlie's a few times. Almost hit a hang glider once too. Mum was so furious."
"I don't know what I'll do," moaned Neville. Seamus looked at his dorm mate with a little worry. Neville was fast becoming known as the klutz of the school.
"You should be fine, Neville. You too, Hermione. It might take a little while, but you just need to calm down about it. You have to be focused to fly."
"Focused? Have you ever flown, Harry?" Ron was quite surprised.
"Er, that's kind of tough to explain. Thursday will be my first day on a broom, really. But being nervous just makes it tougher. Relax and have fun with it. And just focus on following the teacher's advice."
Most of the rest of the week was just boring to Harry. He was seriously looking at trying to convince a couple of the other first year Gryffindors to help them with their jinxes and curses. Because Quirrell seemed to be only good for training against trolls. He did his homework and then studied on some of the books from the Marauder trunk. With a bit of preparation, he might be able to make his own map.
Thursday morning finally rolled around and Draco Malfoy finally made his move. Neville looked up in surprise as the blond Slytherin snatched his just delivered Remembrall from his hand.
"Hey, that's Neville's!" Harry cried out, Ron and Hermione right behind him.
Harry was still surprised when McGonagall appeared. "What is going on here?"
"Malfoy's got my Remembrall, Professor." Neville would always be Neville, it seemed.
Malfoy dumped the ball back on the table. "Just looking," he drawled as he walked away with Crabbe and Goyle.
"He's going to try something, I bet." Harry looked perturbed. It seemed Draco wanted to pick on the Gryffindors, but he didn't seem to actively hate him this time. Well, yet.
That afternoon, the Gryffindors and Slytherins trooped out to the green field that they would learn to fly above. Madam Hooch was as interesting as always. Harry did wonder a little bit about her eyes, but no one seemed to care.
"Up!" he cried with gusto, the broom almost leaping into his hands. He noted, with a quick grin at Hermione and Neville, that they were doing a lot better this time. It only took Hermione about three times to get the broom into her hand. And Neville was almost there when Hooch blew her whistle. Ron was standing right beside him with another huge grin. He'd gotten his in two tries.
Hooch had everyone mount his or her brooms. Neville started to slowly float up on the first count. Much slower than last time, but he started to gain speed.
Harry yelled out, "Neville! Calm down. You'll be fine." He wobbled just a second and then fell to the earth right near Pansy.
Madam Hooch swooped down on him, to check him out. "He's knocked himself unconscious! None of you is to move while I take this boy to the hospital wing! You leave those brooms where they are or you'll be out of Hogwarts before you can say 'Quidditch.' Is that understood?" The rest of the class nodded somberly, except for Malfoy and his cronies who were cackling.
Harry felt his great worry for his friend fall behind his rage at Malfoy's unpleasant antics. Malfoy suddenly walked over to Pansy and picked something off the ground. Harry's blood ran cold. He had to decide now, if he was going to chase Draco and start his rivalry. If he didn't, so many things would change. But if he did, he'd be setting himself up to be the youngest Seeker in a century.
"Look! It's that stupid thing Longbottom's gran sent him." Malfoy seemed incredibly pleased.
"Give that back!" Hermione shouted.
Malfoy smiled nastily. "I think I'll leave it somewhere for Longbottom to find - how about - up a tree?"
"You heard her, give that back!" Harry said softly. Everyone heard the menace in his voice. They didn't know what to make of it.
Draco hopped on his broom and easily lifted off the ground to a fair height. "Why don't you come up and get it, Perfect Potter?"
Harry hopped on his broom and lifted off easily, even as he ignored different people trying to stop him from confronting the Slytherin. Everyone but Hermione blinked in awe as Harry's ease of flying, though he didn't come to quite as crisp a stop as he would have liked. This definitely wasn't his old Firebolt, Harry thought to himself. He'd better be a little cautious about any moves he pulled. "Well? Are you going to give it back or not?"
Malfoy sneered, though it was obvious that he was a bit worried. Harry suddenly zoomed toward him, but purposefully missed just like he remembered . He wanted to herd him a bit, towards McGonagall's office. Malfoy took the bait. "Catch it, if you can!" He tossed it high into the air.
Harry suddenly zoomed after it, chasing it right over the arc and back down. He caught it very easily before it even came close to the ground. "Yeah! Got it!" Harry yelled as he swooped back down to the class and dismounted easily.
"HARRY POTTER!" Professor McGonagall shouted as she ran into the yard. "Never - in all my time at Hogwarts -"
He made a point to look at her open mouthed.
Professor McGonagall was almost speechless with shock, and her glasses flashed furiously, "- how dare you - might have broken your neck -"
Harry made a point of looking worried as she dragged him away, but Harry managed to catch Hermione's eye and wink slyly at her. Professor McGonagall dragged him off, over the protests of his classmates.
"What's going to happen to me, Professor?" Harry managed to say as he tagged along.
"I should give you a detention for that stunt, Harry Potter." She continued to walk briskly.
"You not? Are you going to expel me then?" Harry remembered that he'd really been worried about it the first time.
"For that little thing? Of course not. You gave me a great big fright, but I wouldn't send you back to those horrid relatives of yours unless I had no choice." She wheeled on him suddenly. "And you had better not give me a reason to do so, young man!"
"Good! I am going to see about getting you on the Quidditch team." She turned down a corridor towards Flitwick's class.
"But I'm a First Year. I'm not even allowed my own broom!" Harry was going to do the best he could to not be treated as special, if he could help it. He had always hated that, being singled out.
"I'll have to see about talking to the Headmaster about bending the rules a bit. Here we are. Excuse me, Professor Flitwick, could I borrow Wood for a moment?"
Oliver Wood followed them to an empty classroom. Wasn't Peeves here last time?
"Oliver Wood, I have found your Seeker."
Wood's expression changed from puzzlement to delight. "Are you serious, Professor?"
Harry tried to listen as they nattered on about he was so great as Seeker material. "Professor McGonagall? I don't really feel good about this. I feel like I'm getting rewarded for breaking a rule."
She looked taken back by the thought. "Are you suggesting that I punish you for that incident with Malfoy?"
"Well, only if he got punished too. But, I feel like I'm being treated special and different. And I don't want to be different. I just want to be Harry." Harry looked at her with a pleading expression.
"You don't want to be on the team, then?" Oliver Wood asked in outrage.
"No! I'd love to play Quidditch, I think. But I don't want it being given to me. I want to earn it."
The strict professor looked at him quizzically. "How about I talk to the Headmaster about allowing you to try out this Saturday?"
"Thank you, Professor."
Harry told Ron and Hermione about what had happened. Ron seemed quite impressed. "I'm going to go ask Fred and George about any tips they can give you!" He walked off with a happy grin.
Hermione leaned forward. "Did that happen like that last time?"
"Can we talk about that later and not is so public a place?" Harry said with a tinge of panic.
"Having a last meal, Potter? When are you getting the train back to the Muggles?" Malfoy said with a smirk.
"Whatever gave you that idea? I guess we're both lucky that we didn't get detention, aren't we?" Harry said coolly. Draco Malfoy could infuriate him in no time.
"Ah, hanging out with your Mudblood girlfriend, Potter?" the Slytherin said with a smirk.
Harry's eyes narrowed dangerously. "I'd take that back, if I were you. And don't think your little friends can help you."
"I don't need them to deal with you, Potter. I'll even prove it. Tonight. Wizard's duel. Wands only - no contact. What's the matter? Never heard of a wizard's duel before, I suppose?"
"I know what a Wizard's duel is. Who's your second?" Harry countered.
Malfoy looked surprised, in spite of himself. He sized up his two cronies. "Crabbe. What about you, Potty."
"I'll be Harry's second!" Hermione said angrily.
"We'll meet you in the trophy room at midnight then." Malfoy just smirked at that.
"Oh, and Malfoy? Don't chicken out."
Hermione looked upset. "Midnight? In the trophy room? That's far after curfew. Is he trying to get us expelled?"
Harry stood up as he stuffed a bit into his mouth. "If you want, I can ask Ron to be my second. Come on. Let's go back to the common room."
Hermione hopped to her feet after grabbing a slice of roast beef to finish eating. "No way! He insulted me!"
It was only a few minutes later that she realized that they weren't headed back to the common room. As soon as she saw the corridor that the Room of Requirement would appear in, she burst into a smile. "Can I make it appear?"
"Not this time. But, I promise you, next time." Harry started concentrating on a room that the two of them could practice jinxes and curse while not being overheard. Three, quick walks down the hall and it appeared. "There it is." The boy opened the door to see the security door. He locked them both behind them.
Hermione looked surprised at the large, open room with fluffy pillows stacked up against one wall. Weird and various items that she didn't immediately recognize were on the shelves. "Why is it different?"
"It's a magical room. It becomes what you need when you keep walking past that area. This is a room that we can use to practice curses and jinxes."
"Curses and Jinxes?" Hermione asked.
Harry rolled his eyes. "Exactly how many curses do you know right now?"
"But you're the one that's going to be dueling Malfoy!"
Harry grinned at her. "I doubt he'll show, actually. But if I am killed, you're supposed to take my place. That's the job of a second in a duel."
Hermione looked suddenly flustered. "But you are really good at that. Much better than Malfoy, I bet."
"I'd rather be over prepared, just in case. I think we'll start with the Disarming Jinx."
Hermione smiled toothily, showing off her overbite more than he remembered her ever doing before.
About two hours later, Harry found himself on his back while shaking his head. "That was much better!" He stood up again to see a happily giggling girl laughing at him. "You've almost mastered a second year spell."
The young witch's face lit up. "I did? I thought you were just kidding me that I was really good!"
"Not at all. You're the smartest, cleverest witch of our year. But we need to get back to our common room now."
By the time they made it back to the Gryffindor common rooms, it was just barely before curfew. Ron almost mugged the both of them. "I heard you guys are going to a secret duel with Malfoy! I've got to be there! Please, you got to let me come along." He seemed frantic for some reason.
"It's bad enough that we're going to be breaking rules, Ronald!" Hermione was scandalized by his behavior and it showed with her tone.
"I'll be right back, okay?" Harry said; ducking the seemingly imminent fight he saw between the two. He trotted up the stairs to his dorm and opened his trunk. In a moment, he had his father's copy of the Marauder Map out. He mumbled the words to activate it and checked to see if it were really working. He breathed a sigh of relief to see the normal business of crowded dorms and common rooms. "Mischief Managed."
Harry trotted back down with the map in his pocket. He sat in a corner with his friends, trying to be unobtrusive while they chatted. Luckily, no one seemed to note them or care. Harry had to grin to himself as he saw the Weasley twins sneaking out about eleven o'clock.
It seemed like forever until it was almost midnight. Harry held up his forefinger to his lips as he pulled out the map. "I solemnly swear I am up to no good!" he whispered while tapping the paper.
"What's that, Harry?" Ron asked. It looked a little familiar, like something he'd seen before.
"It's a special map that I found in my father's trunk. Hmm. Malfoy is still in the dungeons. But Finch is up near the trophy room. We'll give him a minute to wander off and then we'll head up."
Ron just about exploded. "Malfoy tried to set you up! That slimy git!"
Hermione had wide, shocked eyes. "Harry? Do we have to do this?"
"I was challenged to a duel. So I'll show up. But with this, we aren't likely to get caught." Harry gave her a reassuring smile.
They stepped out of the portrait and into the hall, nearly stepping on Neville. Hermione looked scandalized again. "What are you doing out here?"
"I forgot the password," Neville said plaintively. He looked a little rumpled from sitting out there.
Hermione turned to the portrait to let Neville in, but blinked as she realized that the Fat Lady wasn't there.
Ron just beamed. "Come with us, Neville. We're going to watch Harry and Malfoy duel!"
"Really? This late?" The tubby boy looked excited by that.
"Shush now. Follow me." Harry led them around Finch and up to the Trophy Room. They hid in a nearby corridor to await Malfoy while avoiding the caretaker. After it was obvious that the Slytherins weren't showing, they took a circuitous path back to their own common room. Luckily, the Fat Lady had finally returned
"I guess Malfoy did try to set us up for detention or something," Harry muttered.
"Lousy prat! You don't do that about duels. You just don't." Ron seemed particularly peeved about the situation.
Hermione looked like she wanted to ask Harry something, but just nodded good night.
"Come on, guys. We've got class in the morning."
Saturday dawned bright and early. It was finally time for the Gryffindor seeker tryout.
Harry showed up early and walked out to the Quidditch pitch, Ron and Hermione trailing along. He saw a couple older boys from Gryffindor.
Burl Durhman looked at the first years. "What are you guys doing out here?" he asked belligerently. His friend Timothy Burks just nodded his head in agreement about their right to ask.
"Um, I was going to try out for Seeker. I guess." Harry was quite intimidated by the older boys. Everyone was just so huge.
"What?" they shouted.
Oliver Wood suddenly made his presence. "And be lucky that he wanted tryouts. I'm totally positive he's at least twice the seeker either of you two louts will ever be!"
"What? You've got to be kidding, Wood!"
Wood totally ignored their protests. "All right you three, here's the plan. I've borrowed Madam Hooch's training Snitch. It's up to you to catch it. Got it?"
"Um, Mr. Wood? I don't have a broom yet! Should I borrow a school broom?" Harry really didn't like the thought of having to try and catch a snitch on one of those ancient Clean Sweep threes.
The captain of the team blinked. "No, you'll use mine. It's a Clean Sweep Seven. Decent enough. It's a present from my parents so don't break it!"
The three Gryffindors set up to lift off. Wood suddenly threw the bright silver snitch into the air. It zoomed off at full speed, followed by the players in a moment.
Harry immediately took the lead, as the Snitch wove in and out of towers and rings. Burl and Timothy almost couldn't believe their eyes. The boy was a natural, they could tell that. Nothing they could do would allow them to catch him, much less the Snitch that was desperately fleeing them all.
Finally after about ten minutes, Harry managed to catch it. The two boys were just left in his dust the entire way.
Wood was jumping and cheering along with Ron and Hermione. As the three flyers landed, he just about hugged Harry ecstatically. "That was bloody amazing, Harry!" Ron shouted.
Hermione just gave Ron a horrified look for his language.
"Wow, I think that was the fastest anyone ever caught a training Snitch on a Clean Sweep Seven, Harry! I can tell Professor McGonagall that I've made my decision. Burl, I'm thinking that you would be a decent backup Seeker though."
The older boys whooped with a great cheer. "We're going to flatten those Slytherins this year!" Timothy shouted.
"And we've got the youngest Seeker in a century on our team too! And he deserves it! It's like you were born to be a Seeker, Harry," Burl enthused right along with his friends.
Hermione just looked stunned at Harry. They were in the Room of Requirement again. "What do you mean; 'Quirrell is going to let a troll into the castle?' He's a teacher!"
"He's a professor with Voldemort in his head. I told you about that!" Harry said scathingly. He was immediately apologetic. "Sorry, I didn't mean to snap at you." They were taking a break from learning jinxes and curses, which they'd been doing every other day or so. Hermione was progressing pretty rapidly, for being only eleven.
The girl shuddered at that thought. Then she gave him a hard look. "Is it very hard, knowing that he's out there? And that he wants to hurt you."
She was still just an innocent. "It can be tough. But I've got my best friend to help me. And what I need you to do is distract Ron at the dinner. Tell him that you are going to meet me in the library later."
She narrowed her eyes. "Why? You're planning something, aren't you?"
Harry nodded. "I'm going to make sure that the troll that he let loose last time doesn't hurt anyone."
"Can you really defeat a troll?" Hermione asked, worried about her best friend.
Harry looked off at the end of the Room of Requirement. "I think so. I can't let Voldemort get his hands on that stone. I have to do everything to stop him."
The young girl hopped to her feet. "Well, we've still got a little time. Show me that stunning spell again!"
Harry stood very still as he watched Professor Quirrell run past him after letting the troll into the castle. The troll shook of the effect of the Defense teacher's memory charm and started wandering around stupidly. But the Boy Who Lived was quite chilled to discover that the Troll was under the Imperious Curse.
Harry was still quite safe under his Disillunsionment charm at this point. But he wasn't here to be safe. He was here to make it safe for everyone else. He stepped out while holding an unfamiliar wand ready. "Confoundus!" he shouted as he cast the curse.
As he'd expected, trolls were quite susceptible to mental attacks that weren't stunning spells. He was amazed to discover that Quirrell actually had taught him something useful. A quick levitation spell sent the club up into the air and then crashing down to knock the troll out quite succinctly. Harry had to grin at felling the troll with the same spell that Ron had used in his own past. Quickly leaving a scribble warning of 'Hogwarts is under my protection', he left as he removed his disguise charm.
He actually made it in time to hook up with Hermione and Ron as they were crawling into the Gryffindor common room with the rest of the students as they were just finishing trooping in.
"Harry! Did you hear?" Ron yelled.
"A troll?" he replied.
"Right! I bet the teachers are going to deal with it right now!" Ron looked very excited. He got distracted as Fred and George tried to tell a joke about how the troll was just late for the sorting ceremony.
Hermione tugged him away, towards a corner. "Did it work?"
The tussle-haired boy grinned as he whispered back. "Have some faith in me, it was only a troll!"
"Students! Gather around! Does everyone have their wand?" Professor McGonagall looked upset and intense as she entered the common room. She ignored the questions from the house prefects until everyone took out their wand. She lined up the six house prefects and then cast a spell on their wands. After a quick, hushed discussion with them, she split the house up into six parts.
Harry winked at Hermione as Percy walked over. Ron caught the glance, but didn't have the chance to say anything.
"I am all a bit flustered over this, but the Headmaster has decreed that all students wands are to be checked to see if any curses or jinxes have been cast. So, everyone, wands out!" the eldest Weasley present said pompously.
All the first years had their wands out already, so it was really a moot point. Percy started casting the prior enchantment charm on all the wands. All of the wands sported nothing more powerful than Harry and Hermione's disarming jinxes.
"Er, well, that's that. My, you two are quite advanced in spell casting aren't you?" Percy was obviously impressed.
"You've got to show me how to do that! So that's what you two are off doing all the time!" Ron exclaimed.
Harry looked flustered. "Well, we aren't exactly learning very much in Defense class, are we?"
Percy coughed uncomfortably. "Er, um, yes. Perhaps some of the older students may be willing to give you first years a bit of direction."
Fred and George gaped from just a little way away where Professor McGonagall was testing their wands. "Did we just hear Percy badmouth a professor?" they cried out in unison.
"Boys!" the professor exclaimed.
The prefect just blushed even as he stoically ignored the jibe. "Well, off to your beds now!"
"Thank you, Percy. We probably could use some help." Harry just stared very hard at the other boy when he turned away.
Harry sat at the breakfast table with Hermione just a few weeks later, who was studying from a book. "So, Harry? You looking forward to your game today?"
"Yes, actually! It should be really grand!" And Harry knew for a fact that they'd be able to win. He was a far better Seeker than Slytherin had.
The bossy little girl leaned over to Harry. "So how did you manage to not get caught casting the spells that defeated the troll?" she asked in a breathless whisper.
"I used a different wand."
"What are you doing with someone else's wand?"
Harry shrugged. "It was in that chest from my family vault. I think it might be my grandfather or grandmother's wand. I didn't think they'd actually check, but Dumbledore must be worried."
"That was pretty clever!" she said just a little louder than she meant.
Ron slumped in right next to Harry. "What was clever?"
"Oh, just that jelly leg curse we've been learning," Harry said quickly. "Ready to cheer me on?"
"Right! You've got to let me into that little club for learning defense." Ron stuck his tongue out at Hermione. "Can't let the bossy little girl learn all the neat things."
"Ronald!" Hermione almost screeched.
"He was teasing you, you know that?" Harry said with a smile Hermione. She looked stunned at that thought.
"Blimey, Harry! Aren't you nervous at all about your first Quidditch game?" Ron said as he started to stuff his gaping maw with whatever he could reach.
"Well, a little. But I'm going to do my best!"
"You'll do fine, Harry!" Hermione then surprised him by leaving over and giving him a quick peck on his cheek and then hugged him.
Harry started blushing horribly.
"Ahhhh. Harry has a girlfriend!" Ron made it sound so dreadful.
"We aren't like that." Harry was still blushing. He turned to Hermione suddenly. "Are we?"
She was blushing just as badly. "I... don't know."
The Boy that Lived leaned over to her and whispered to her, "How about we talk after the game? You're ready in case Quirrell tries to hex my broom again, right?"
Hermione nodded resolutely. They'd watch as Professor Snape limp around, obviously still having problems getting past Fluffy. Ron was very vocal about the fact that he thought that Snape was up to something after they'd let it slip that Harry had run into a three headed dog guarding a trap door.
Harry and his team-mates listened to an infamous Oliver Wood pep-talk later that morning. Harry smiled fondly at that. He'd forgotten how intense Oliver really was about Quidditch. Harry rubbed his hand over the smooth handle of his 'new' Nimbus 2000 that had finally showed up just a few mornings ago.
The match started quickly enough. Harry had decided to make it a little tough for Quirrell by zooming around the field while looking for the snitch. He drifted behind the Slytherin Seeker a few times, as he scanned around the field for the elusive snitch while avoiding any errant bludgers that headed his way.
Suddenly his broom jerked and then started to haltingly move upwards. "Oh, come on!" he muttered to himself. It was only a matter of moments before the rest of the Gryffindor's team had surrounded Harry, trying to keep him from falling. The Slytherin captain was making as many scores as he could, just like in his old memories.
"Come on, Ron! I thought something might happen!" Hermione whispered.
"What?" Ron asked, a lot confused by what's going on.
"Snape's doing something, can't you see?" she said as she pointed.
"Your right! Are you going to hex him?" he asked eagerly.
"Honestly! Don't you ever read? You have to keep your eyes on your target with a hex." Hermione pulled out a flask from her robes as she headed down the steps in the stands towards the Slytherin ones.
"So what are you going to do, throw his cloak over his eyes?" he asked as they ran.
"Even better! I made a smoking potion!" Hermione was quite pleased with herself.
"What ever made you think that you'd need something like that?"
"You're not a woman! You're a girl!" That earned Ron a very angry glare from the girl in question.
Hermione huffed and puffed as she ran up the stairs. She stopped when she got just one flight down. With a quick toss, she threw the vial at the front of the stand, right under the first row seats! It started billowing green and yellow smoke.
"Come on, let's get out of here!" she said as she charged back down the stairs. Ron followed her. He definitely didn't want to be around if the teachers decided to catch the 'pranksters'.
The smoke worked as expected, clouding all of that particular area quite thoroughly. Immediately Harry's broom started working normally. He took off and glanced over towards the Slytherin stands. "Good job, Hermione!"
Suddenly, his attention was caught by the other team's Seeker suddenly rocketing forward. Harry leaned forward and shot after him. The snitch had been spotted! And unless Harry was very fortunate, the Slytherins were going to win.
Harry leaned even closer to the broom handle, willing his broom to go faster, faster! The crowds gasped in astonishment as Harry's broom seemed to shoot up. Harry dodged a vicious elbow from the older boy as he swung underneath, his hand outstretched towards the snitch. They dodged around two stands and then the Slytherin hoops, where both seekers were forced to dodge a bludger sent at them.
Harry's fingers finally grasped the snitch with a huge smile plastered to his face. He heard madam Hootch's whistle as he held it high above his head. The cheering from the Gryffindors was almost deafening as he swooped about at high speed.
And that was when his broom suddenly lurched, slowing rapidly over a hundred feet in the air. If he'd had had both hands, he might have been able to hold it. Harry started to tumble as he fell. Just before he smashed into the ground, he felt something tugging at his clothes.
"Harry? Are you all right?" a voice asked worriedly.
With a groan, Harry finally opened his eyes. It must have not been too long that he was out, as he was still in the Quidditch pitch. "Did we win?"
"He's awake!" George shouted. A great cheer broke out at that.
"Just hold still, Harry. Madam Pomfrey will have you put back together in a jiffy."
It really wasn't that long before she arrived. With a couple of swished of her wand, she healed his broken shoulder and arm. "Foolish sport. It's far too dangerous!" she said just a little too loudly.
"No, Madam Pomfrey, this was nothing to do with Quidditch," a gentle but captivating voice said to her. Professor Dumbledore stood in the crowd, watching Harry closely. "Someone tried to hurt Harry. If I say so myself, they might have succeeded if not for the quick thinking of Ronald Weasley."
Ron just stared blankly. "I just tried to levitate his clothing to slow him down, Professor." His ears were flaming red from his embarrassment.
"Yes, but how many people didn't think to try? For your quick actions, Mr. Weasley, I am awarding Gryffindor twenty points." Dumbledore turned back to the crowd. "That was quite some exciting game? So I think we should all get back to the castle and celebrate."
Back in the Gryffindor common room, the party was going into full swing. Harry was subdued and ended up being forced to drink a pepper-up potion. Feigning tiredness, he retired to his room. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a small rat watching him carefully. "Hello, Scabbers!" he forced himself to say cheerfully. With the creep-crawly sensation of being watched, he went to bed.
That night, he decided that he really needed to get rid of Scabbers.
"Professor McGonagall? I was wondering if I could do something for extra credit? I was very interested in Animagus -"
"Mr. Potter, I am not going to let you attempt the Animagus transformation at such a young age! It would be folly!" the strict head of Gryffindor said sternly. She was sitting behind her desk; everyone else had already wandered out, except for Ron and Hermione at the entrance to their class.
"Well, er, I was talking about writing a report about it." Harry let himself show his shock.
"Oh. That is quite fine then." The professor looked at him intently, questions lying behind her eyes.
Surprisingly, Harry had thought this through. With the need of books from the restricted section, he would have to have a professor's unwitting help. "Would you have any advice on which books to look into?" he asked hopefully.
Professor McGonagall immediately wrote out a list of books for him to check out. "Here you go. I hope this is up to your normal standards," she said with a hint of fondness.
The young man backed up to his friends, confused. He tried to smile a bit as he stuffed the paper into his pocket.
"What was that about, Harry?" Ron asked as he picked up his own book bag.
"Oh, just looking for a little extra credit project. I want to keep my grades up," Harry replied blithely.
"You two are a pair of bookworms, you know that?" the redhead complained.
"Gee, thanks Ron. You sure know how to make a guy feel good."
"I call it as I see it!" Ron grinned as he said it though.
Hermione couldn't raise her eyes too look up at Harry. He'd noticed when they were alone that this seemed to happen a lot. "Hey, Hermione?"
"Yeah?" she replied distractedly. She was mentally going over the necessary parts of the jinx she was about to cast. They were again in the Room of Requirement, studying up on Defense against the Dark Arts. Although she didn't realize it, Harry had her working on items that would be on next years finals.
"Did I do something to upset you?" he asked worriedly.
"No, Harry." She seemed to be busy looking everywhere but him suddenly.
"Hermione. Please tell me what is wrong. I really... don't know what I did."
Hermione took a deep breath and then finally looked up at him. "Why do you... not hate me?"
"I could never hate you. Why would you think something so silly?" Harry looked flabbergasted at the thought.
"I nearly got you killed by my smoking potion! Ron had to save you! All I could do was watch as you fell to your death, frozen like a little, stupid girl" she suddenly yelled out, tears in her eyes.
"I thought it was a good idea too, you know. And it was just my bad luck that it happened to fade out so quickly." He smiled suddenly at her. "Besides, I won the game. I wasn't sure if I would."
"You're just saying that to be nice," Hermione groused.
"No, I am not." Harry tilted her face up with light pressure on her chin with two fingers. "You... mean a lot to me. Really. I... don't know how to explain it. You..."
The bushy-haired girl waited expectantly. But Harry didn't seem like he could continue. "I'm right here, Harry. I'm not going anywhere." She was studying him closely. He seemed so torn, so conflicted.
"I'm... not very good at expressing myself, Hermione. I don't know how... to say... I really care." Harry took a deep breath. "I wish I were better at this."
Hermione reached over and took his hand. "You don't have to say anything. You're the best friend I've ever had and you don't judge me. I'm not the annoying know-it-all to you. I don't know how you stand me."
"You're my know-it-all," Harry said fondly. "And I wouldn't have it any other way."
"Harry? Do you really mean that?"
"Mean what?" He looked confused.
"That you are 'mine'?" she asked.
Harry gulped. "If you want to. We're pretty young. Well, you are very young to be thinking about dating."
"Harry, everyone already thinks we are. You silly goose. You should hear Pavarti complain that the mousy little girl got the famous Harry Potter."
With a twinkle in his eye, he grinned. "I think they are just jealous. Besides, I happen to know that you are going to be one of the prettiest girls in our year."
Hermione just waved that off with her free hand. "Posh, and you know it."
Harry waggled a finger at her. "Ah, but I've seen you three years older and in a ball gown. You took my breath away with how pretty you turned out to be that night. I was a fool not to have asked you out then."
"Why didn't you?" she asked hurriedly.
"Stupidity and hormones. I had this horrible crush on Cho Chang for the longest time. And she might be a Ravenclaw, but she's really superficial." Harry thought about it for a second. "Even if she is pretty."
Hermione finally released his hand. "So, why the report on Animagus?"
"Scabbers. Of course." The raven-haired boy watched her interestedly.
She thought about it for a second. "You are hoping that there is some way to force him to reveal himself?"
"I know there is a spell to force an Animagus to revert to their true form."
"Really? I've never read about that."
"Sirius and Remus used it on Pettigew to force him to reveal that he was a Deatheater. I didn't realize how hard it was to become one, you know. It takes months and months of people casting spells on you to force you into your form and back. And it is terribly unpleasant."
"Hmm. I thought it was something you did internally," Hermione said as she listened attentively.
"Not to begin with. It's only after a long time that the body starts to accept the new form as its own that you can switch back and forth. I'm impressed that the Marauders had three successes and no bad failures."
"Harry, what's a bad failure?" the young girl asked curiously.
"Usually the person gets stuck in the other form for extended periods. Or half transformed. Animal head, human feet on an animal. Some people just die from the strain. Although I did find out that you can go through the entire transformation process in just under a month, if you can stand the pain."
"And if you can't stand the pain?" Hermione asked worriedly.
"You go insane."
Ron stood up from where he was finished on re-potting his plant in Herbology. They were already running a bit late, as Harry had accidentally dropped his pot and had to start over. Professor Sprout had even docked Gryffindor five points for the mess.
"Hey, Harry! Hermione! I'm going to head up to lunch now!" Ron called out as he headed to the door on the greenhouse. "Hurry up or I won't leave you anything!" He gave them a cheeky grin as he took off.
"Honestly. If he put half the effort of his eating habits into studying, he'd be twice the student." Hermione looked quite miffed.
Harry thought she looked quite adorable with the small smudge of dirt on her nose. "Almost finished. How about we clean up back up at the castle?" He wiped the most part of the fragrant fertilizer off. The sink's hot water tap wasn't working and he wanted to use the bathroom near the main hall.
"Do you want us to get into trouble with Mr. Filch?" Hermione asked querulously.
"No, but if we don't hurry we are going to miss lunch," he replied with a happy grin. He grabbed her hand and dashed back towards the castle.
They laughed as they charged up the steps and back inside. As the closed the door, they heard a familiar and not invited voice. "It's ickle first years!" Peeves exclaimed quietly. "And look at their nasty, dirty hands!" With that, he tossed some pellets he had been holding up the stairs where they exploded with a nasty smell.
Harry and Hermione just blinked at the errant poltergeist. Suddenly, a voice from the upper balcony shouted out, "Dung bombs! I'll have them strung up, I will, won't I now?" With that, Filch stuck his head over the railing just after Peeves dove into the floor. "Ha! I've got you now! You won't get away with your pranks while I'm here! Dumbledore will have to give you a detention for this." Almost faster than you could believe, he was down and grabbing their sleeves.
"But we didn't do it! It was Peeves!" Harry tried to argue.
"And what's that on your hands? It looks like dung to me!" Filch yelled out excitedly.
"We were just coming in from the greenhouse. We were going to clean up and then go to lunch!" Hermione interjected.
"Likely story. Now I've got you for lying too. We'll see what the Headmaster says about this! Pixie Brownies!" he snapped to the gargoyle that protected Dumbledore's office. In moments, he had them harried up the rotating stairs.
"Mr. Filch, I assume you have another group of evil malefactors that had inflicted a nefarious plan upon you?" Dumbledore said from behind his desk. His phoenix, Fawkes, chirped a melodious greeting.
"Throwing dung bombs and then trying to claim that Peeves did it, even with their hands covered in dung." Filch seemed quite smug.
"Very well covered, indeed. They almost look like they just came from Professor Sprout's class."
"That's what they claim, but I don't believe a word of it!"
"But Professor..." Harry tried to interject.
"At the very least, it seems, they did not clean up before coming to the castle." Dumbledore's eyes were twinkling merrily.
"I just hope that just because he's the Boy Who Lived, that he's not going to get any special treatment. He should be dealt with just like any student!" Filch exclaimed.
Hermione opened her mouth to interject, but Harry cut her off. "I don't want to be treated special. If that means I have to have a detention, then I will."
The Muggle-born witch saw the set angle of his jaw and realized that Harry would really do the detention, even if he didn't deserve it. She sighed to herself. It wasn't fair.
"Very well, Mr. Potter. You and Miss Granger will have detention with Mr. Filch today after class. I will also dock Gryffindor ten points each for your actions. You may leave and go try to get some lunch." The Headmaster looked at them gravely.
"Yes, sir," they answered in unison.
As they walked back down the stairs, Hermione finally asked, "Harry? Why?"
Harry glanced around and even looked at the walls closely. "Dumbledore is a great fellow, but I don't... can't trust him. And I won't be protected by him either."
"The prophecy that you said he didn't tell you about?" Hermione slipped her hand into his own.
Harry just nodded. He squeezed her hand thankfully.
"Blimey, Harry. You just don't have any luck," Ron complained. The redhead had been quite vocal about the unfairness of their detention.
"It's not a big deal," he replied as he shrugged his shoulders. Hermione was following him down the hall to Filch's office.
"Well, I don't want to get my own detention. I'll see you later tonight then," Ron said as he walked off.
Hermione rapped on the door. "Mr. Filch? We are here for our detention."
"Yes. Yes! Come along. I've found just the work for you." Filch led Harry, Hermione and Mrs. Norris down the hall and into the dungeons. Soon he was in front of a door that even Harry had never been inside. He couldn't even remember having seen it.
The caretaker took out a ring of keys and unlocked three different keyholes. "Noisy students aren't allowed in here normally. And the door only opens once a month. So if you don't want to be stuck in here for a month, you want to be done before dawn!"
Harry and Hermione just stared at the musty and very dirty storage room. They mutely accepted the brooms, pails and scrub brushes from Filch. Mrs. Norris watched them closely as they started to try to make a dent in the massive mess.
An hour later, they'd discovered that there was actually another room, hidden behind several crates. Well, discovered is probably the wrong word. Accidentally broken open would be closer. One of the boxes, full of some oddly colored glowing red and green rocks, fell up against he hidden doorway when the crate it was on top of collapsed under it's not inconsiderable weight.
Mrs. Norris took off like lightning, off to go and report this new transgression to her master.
"Oh, bother. Now we're going to be in even greater trouble," Hermione complained. She rubbed her hands carefully, as she'd rubbed them raw with the work they were doing.
"I suppose we better make sure nothing valuable was broken," he replied. Harry slipped through the broken edge, and into a dark and web covered room. "It's a right mess in here. Lumos." His wand led the way in between a rather eclectic collection of Asian artifacts. Strange statues, lamps and tapestries littered the room in between more boxes, barrels and crates that were stored thick, heavy shelves.
"What do you see?" The young girl tried to peek into the room to get a better look.
"Just more stuff to clean. I hope Filch doesn't want us to clean this room too," Harry sound more loudly. He pointed his wand at a larger statue of a monster, only to blink in astonishment as the statue blinked its own eyes back tiredly. "Uh, oh."
The statue yawned, showing a very large collection of extremely sharp looking teeth. "Hermione, out of the way!" Harry warned as he backed away quickly, never taking his eyes of the monster.
"Hmm? Intruders?" the thing asked in a gravely voice asked as it stepped forward.
It seemed to be very solid and heavy, Harry noted to himself. Yes, that was a very solid thunk it made.
In his haste to exit though the door while not losing track of the creature, he made a simple, though spectacular, mistake. He backed right into a support for the shelf right next to the door. The brittle, dry wood snapped with startling ease. Harry and the statue looked up just in time to see the shelves giving way. With a roaring crash, everything came down on them.
"Harry? Harry? Lumos!" Hermione shouted as she stuck her head back through the half-shattered doorway. All she could see was a tumbled pile of crates, broken barrels and bric-a-brac. "Harry!" Without even a thought to the danger that she might be throwing herself into, she slipped her small form into the room. After a moment, peering into the dusty air and under the piles of debris, she finally found a small hand sticking out under it. A pool of liquid seeped from under it.
Hermione nearly fainted until she realized that it wasn't blood, but some clear liquid that must have been in a barrel. With a couple of quick swishes of her wand, she levitated the heavier items right off of Harry. He seemed to be breathing, she noted in relief. But it looked like he had hurt his head.
A large pile of items suddenly shifted and then fell away, revealing the battered monster-statue. One of his arms had been broken off and he was chipped and cracked all the way around.
Hermione's heart fluttered fast and furious. There was not time to think, only time to react. With a shout, she sent her most powerful stunning spell at him.
Which did absolutely nothing, to her horrified expression. The statue grinned and took a slow step towards her. Her breathing was almost as fast as her heartbeat. Suddenly, a very serious and determined look came over her. She raised her wand. "I won't let you hurt Harry!" she said firmly.
The statue looked at her closely, even as it leaned closer to her. "Are you sure?" it demanded gruffly.
"Yes," she managed to reply. It was obvious she was about to faint from fright.
"You must be in Gryffindor," it complained suddenly. "Everyone else would have fled from a Gurgoyle." The Gurgoyle leaned back into a far less threatening stance.
"A... what?" Hermione asked faintly.
"Well, the Gurlgoyle, actually. Bendith Twain never made more than me. Then he locked me in this room to protect these dangerous artifacts and now some silly students break in and then break them."
"Twain? He was a Headmaster for Hogwarts. In the 16th century, if I remember correctly." Hermione leaned down to try and check on Harry. He was breathing very shallowly, she noted. "I need to get Harry to the infirmary."
"Hogwarts has its own infirmary now?" it asked.
"Yes, they added it in 1840 to save the cost of transporting students to a trained healer."
"What's going on in here," Filch demanded from the other room, the one they were supposed to be cleaning.
"Harry's been hurt! Get help!" Hermione called out.
Harry opened his eyes to a familiar, though not welcome, sight of stark white sheets and privacy curtains. His head throbbed quit badly, though it didn't feel like anything was broken right then.
"Hello?" he called out. That was odd, his voice sounded a little off. Even squeakier than normal, he mentally complained to himself.
"Ah, Mr. Potter. It is good to see you awake. I hope that you don't make this a habit to end up here," Miss Pomfrey said as she moved around and opened the curtains.
"I remember things falling on me, I think," Harry said.
"Yes, you had a right nasty lump on your head. But you seem to have a good, thick skull and have taken no lasting harm, as far as I can tell." The medi-witch looked him in the eyes before he could put on his glasses.
"What's wrong with my voice then?" Harry rectified his glasses problem as quickly as he could find them.
"I believe you had stumbled on an old room full of dangerous magical artifacts. You could have died if you had touched the wrong one, you understand. Let me check for any curses or hexes upon you," she said with a touch of frustration. She waved her wand and blinked in surprise. "Oh dear. That seems very powerful. Possibly permanent. But it doesn't seem to be focused on you voice."
"What?" Harry exclaimed. He clutched his throat reflexively.
"Let me take a closer look at your neck. Move your hands!" She looked at him closer. Then she frowned. "Swallow, please."
Harry blinked at that. "Swallow?"
"Yes, swallow." Her fingers pushed gently into his throat, carefully feeling for something that Harry didn't understand.
Harry swallowed convulsively. And again.
Pomfrey pulled back about a step. "No... It couldn't be, could it? With a swish of her wand, she snapped another spell out. "I don't believe it."
"I'm not going to die, am I?"
"No, far from it as far as I can tell. There may have to be an adjustment to your situation, but no, you should not die from this." The nurse stood up. "I must go inform Professor Dumbledore about this immediately."
"Inform him of what?" Harry was looking at her quite suspiciously.
Pomfrey sighed. "It appears that you have been cursed. Very powerfully cursed, indeed. You seem to be a girl now."
"That's not funny." Harry started patting her body, only to discover that it was slightly different than the last time she had checked it out. "I'm not a girl. You can fix this, can't you?"
"I'm not sure, yet. It might be quite simple, actually. But until we find out what happened, I can't say. But I must tell the Headmaster immediately." With that, she walked out of the infirmary.
It seemed only a moment later, even though Harry was too scatterbrained to realize that it really was a longer time, when Hermione and Ron almost seemed to burst into the infirmary. "Harry!" they shouted.
"Er, hello." Harry could only look at them in bewilderment. How was he going to explain this to them?
"I hear Filch is in trouble," Ron exclaimed. "Fred overheard that the room you were in held some pretty potent stuff. Only students above the fourth year are supposed to be allowed in there."
"Are you all right, Harry?" Hermione asked. She looked worried about something, which Harry realized must be about her.
"I just got a bump on my head. I should be fine," she replied automatically.
"You don't sound fine. You sound rather upset," the bushy-haired girl replied.
"Yeah, you look like you are about to explode or something. Come on, mate! If you've been cursed with some sort of horrible skin condition, I won't hold it against you." The youngest Weasley in the school just grinned at him with far too much humor for Harry's peace of mind.
Harry was about to tell them that nothing was wrong, when she realized that she wanted them to know. "I guess I am cursed. Not with some skin condition! But... I've been turned into a girl."
"No way?" Ron exclaimed. "I've heard of a few kinky potions and things, but a curse?"
Hermione just blinked at Ron for a second. "And where did you hear about something like that, Ronald?"
Ron's face turned an interesting shade of red under his friends' intense curiosity. "I might have read it in one of Fred and George's magazines."
Harry had to laugh at that. "That sounds like Fred and George. But really, a potion?"
"They are some very twisted people out there, mate!" he replied.
The door to the infirmary opened again, letting in Professor Dumbledore and Madam Pomfrey in. "Ah, there he is. Madam Pomfrey was telling me what happened. I decided to put the matter of Mr. Filch's employment away for the moment."
"Harry Potter's condition appears to be permanent, Headmaster. It is quite a powerful enchantment." The nurse looked a bit frazzled.
"Is there anything we can do about it, Professor?" Harry asked.
"Of course! No, I do not mean that I can cure you this instant. But there are actions we can take at this moment. We shall have to move you to a private dormitory. And if we are to cure you shortly, we should not move you into the girl's side. I will investigate and even talk to Twain's Gurgoyle. He seems to be put out that he's been locked inside that room for several centuries." The Headmaster seemed to be looking at them all very closely. "Most unusual. I had not even heard of that room before tonight. I was definitely not expecting you to open such a treasure trove of ancient magics."
Harry had the strange feeling that Dumbledore was more than looking at her. She blanked out her thoughts carefully, as much as she could. Harry had never mastered Legimancy as well as Professor Snape had demanded, but that hadn't meant that she hadn't learned it. "Where will my room be, sir?"
"There is a small bedroom for guests behind the portrait of Three Puppies on the fourth floor's north corridor. The password is Grizznaple Blooms. I will have your things moved immediately. If you have any questions about your state, you should ask Madam Promfrey here. I daresay that she's had to have this conversation once or twice with young girls that were not aware of the facts of life."
"Yes, of course. Professor, I do think that we should try to keep this matter a bit quiet. It could be quite embarrassing if some news rag got a hold of it." The mediwitch looked quite concerned.
"Yes, please professor. I really don't want it getting around," Harry replied quickly. He turned to Ron and Hermione. "I'm sure they won't tell anyone."
"Of course!" Hermione replied, quite scandalized.
"Mums the word!" Ron answered to the unasked question.
"Yes, perhaps that would be for the best, now. As it should not affect most classes, I will not inform all of the teachers either. I will have to inform your head of house, of course. I do fear that she is going to be having some words with me over this yet this evening."
Harry looked over her new room. It was a bit bigger than she'd ever had to herself, so she was a bit overwhelmed, to say the least. It even had its own desk, next to the large poster-bed. A small window looked over the Quidditch field. "Wow." A second door led to a little private bathroom with its own tub.
Hermione looked over it critically. "I wonder why it is so clean, if no one lives here?"
Ron just shrugged. "Dunno. But Harry, you've got your own room! Wicked!"
"I'm sure the house elves keep it clean." There, he had opened that can of worms already.
"House elves?" Hermione asked curiously.
"Wizarding servants. Only the really rich have house elves. Mum's always wishing she had a house elf that could do the dishes. We only have an old ghoul in the attic, you know. He bangs around in the night if he feels things are too quiet." Ron just rattled off the information like it was nothing big. And for him, it really wasn't.
"What are they?" Hermione asked.
Harry decided to let Ron answer, as she wasn't supposed to know that much about wizarding society.
"House elves are one of the four major races of civilization. You got witches and wizards, then the centaurs, goblins and then house elves. There are other smart races, but they don't deal with our society much. Which is good, as I really don't want to deal with ogres very often."
"Interesting." The girls face was tense in concentration as she filed the information away.
"Well, I guess I'll see you guys tomorrow for breakfast." Harry opened his trunk to pull out her nightclothes.
Morning dawned bright and early. Luckily, the guest quarters had an alarm clock, so Harry was able to wake up at a decent time. She thought about just scrubbing her face, but realized that she would have to face the bathroom soon, for other reasons. She stripped out of her clothes and ran a bath.
As she slid into the bath, she felt a small twitch that seemed to travel across the skin. He also realized that he was in fact that, a he again. "Now that was very odd," Harry muttered to himself. All that trouble to get him his own room and he solves the problem by taking a bath. Though he had never heard of a curse that you washed off before.
After his quick bath, he toweled off and then quickly brushed his teeth. The mirror above the sink complained about his face not being clean enough, so Harry dutifully washed with water from the sink, wonderfully cold and bracing. Harry had not been expecting the twitching feeling again. A quick check informed her that her gender had changed again.
Harry thought about that a second. "Water? No, cold and hot water. Easy enough to test." She ran some hot water and then splashed her face. After a now familiar tingle, he felt much better. "Now that's not so bad. I could almost use it as a disguise, with a little effort."
He exited his new room and made sure that the portrait covered the door. As he was turning around, he almost ran into the form of Professor McGonagall.
"Ah, Mr. Potter. I do hope you are doing all right this morning." Her mouth was set in that little tight frown that meant she was very worried.
"A bit better, actually." Harry glanced around. "Weirdly enough, my curse seems to be water sensitive. I'm not cured, but I can switch back with some hot water."
"Hmm. That does sound a bit odd." A weight seemed to lift off the older woman's back. "At least we aren't going to have to refer to you as the Girl Who Was the Boy That Lived. That might become a tad cumbersome." A small, merry twinkle had shown in her eyes. "I will inform the headmaster. It might be just the clue that we need to get you cured."
"Of course. I'm going down for breakfast; would you like to come with me?" Harry asked politely. He was quite shocked at her answer.
"Why, yes. I do think I would enjoy that."
Harry realized that he had not only adapted to the strange curse he'd had, but he had lost track of time quickly. Winter was definitely here, as the lake had frozen over. He had spent the last several weeks working on mastering the transforming spell of the Animagus. His was quite impressed that the Marauders had managed to succeed while in school.
Although, from the journal he'd found, the prohibition against underage magic was only lightly enforced in a pureblood's home. It was just too hard to actually tell if it were the parents that cast a spell or the child most of the time.
"Harry, are you listening to me?" Hermione asked pointedly as they headed up the Room of Requirement.
"No, sorry. My mind was off on other things."
The young girl looked around carefully to make sure they wouldn't be overheard. "Do you think we're ready to deal with Scabbers?"
Harry pursed his lips. "I think so. Now just doing it in such a way that it doesn't get both of us in trouble. I do really want to let Ron in on the secret as soon as possible. I just wish I had my invisibility cloak."
Hermione leaned closer to whisper to him, "But Dumbledore has it and won't give it to you until Christmas. Which is only ten days away, Harry." She bit her lip, as if nervous over something. "Harry, I... asked my parents if you could have your holiday with us this year. I explained how horrible your family was and that you've never really had a true Christmas and I wanted you to have the best holiday ever and I think that they are going to say yes-"
When Hermione started to just ramble along, continuously, it was definitely a sign that she was nervous. Harry couldn't but help smiling as he interrupted. "I'd be happy to, if your parents agree."
"Really? I wasn't sure you would. You'd told me that you usually... wanted to stay here at Hogwarts." She seemed quite pleased with herself suddenly.
"Oy, Harry!" Ron called out as he walked up to them in the hallways. "I was wondering if you could help me and Neville with that jinx that Professor Quirrel had talked about in class."
The rotund little boy that accompanied the redhead looked at Harry and Hermione with worry. "If it is no bother. We really don't want to-"
"Sure!" Harry enthused overly loud. He had noticed that Scabbers was in Ron's pocket. "Follow me. Oh, Hermione, don't forget about that trick we'd cooked up for the Slytherins."
Hermione looked confused at first, then the realization dawned on her as they continued up to the Room of Requirement. Harry and Hermione both focused their thoughts on bringing the room into existence.
"I don't remember this room," Neville said as he looked around at it with a little bit of worry.
"Nothing wrong with your memory this time, Neville. I was shown this room by a presence. It's a magical room, you see. I think it might even be part of the spirit of Hogwarts." Harry had to fight a grin that wanted to creep onto his lips. Spirit of Hogwarts, indeed.
"You mean like a ghost?" Ron asked, showing far more interest in learning when it was not in a class and about something interesting.
"I don't think it was a ghost. I'm not sure what it was, but I think it was what dealt with that troll on Halloween." Harry watched as Hermione made herself unobtrusive up against a wall. "Let me see you cast the jinx and we'll see what we can do to help you."
"You want us to cast the spell on each other?" the youngest boy of the Weasley family asked. He didn't look very happy at the thought of spell practicing with Neville.
"Sure. That's the best way to see what mistakes you might make."
A smile almost split Harry's face as Scabbers suddenly started to squirm as he wanted to be off of a person that was going to be practicing spells in such a manner. "Let me put Scabbers out and then we'll start," Ron said absently.
Neville followed his example and put his toad, Trevor, on the ground next to the rat. They then set themselves across from each other, ready to begin practicing.
Harry coughed. "On the count of three, right? One, two and... three!"
Ron and Neville both flung their disarming spells at each other very loudly. Harry had to adroitly duck Neville's poorly aimed spell, but he'd been expecting that. "Yes!" the Boy Who Lived shouted in glee. "You got him, Hermione. And he wasn't expecting a thing. I doubt he even heard you stun him there."
Neville and Ron just looked at Harry as if he were bonkers. "What are you talking about, Harry? There's no one here but us. Well and our pets. Scabbers!" The redhead had finally seen that Hermione had snuck up and stunned his pet.
"I don't think he'll be your pet for very long, Ron. As a matter of fact, I'm positive he won't be," Harry declared.
"You aren't going to hurt him, are you?" Ron asked worriedly.
"No, but once we force him back into his human form, I doubt you will want him as a pet," Hermione explained. She was leaning over and prodding the small, furry form with the tip of the wand. "He's really out of it, Harry."
Harry flicked his wand to levitate Scabbers over to the center of the room. "I'll explain everything after we've dealt with this... traitor."
Again, on Harry's count of three, Hermione and he cast a much more difficult spell. Harry was almost positive that Hermione was not really helping him much here, but she had insisted that she be allowed to try. Two rays struck Scabbers. His form started to twist and flex, but slowly you could see the humanity re-emerging from the form.
After they had finished, there was a small, rotund man curled on the floor. His stringy, faded hair was quite recognizable to Harry. "Peter Pettigrew," Harry said softly.
Neville just blinked. "But he's dead. He was murdered by that Deatheater Black. At least that was what my Gran always said."
"No, Pettigrew framed Black for the death of my parents. He was actually the secret keeper that betrayed them to Voldemort. And I'm going to make sure that my godfather doesn't spend another Christmas in Azkaban."
"Harry, how did you know that Scabbers was Pettigew?" Ron asked in a very confused tone of voice.
The Boy Who Lived had been watching the Deatheater closely. He noted when Peter's breathing changed slightly. He was awake and shamming. He hadn't expected the Animagus to be quite so cunning. "It was the spirit of Hogwarts that told me the traitor was alive. It's here right now." Harry made a small shushing gesture to Ron and Neville. Without any warning whatsoever, he silently stunned the feigning man. "Stupify," he said again as he stunned him more thoroughly. "Well, if there was such a thing. It's actually something I made up to throw people off of anything odd that I might have to do."
"Oh, you we're lying for his benefit," Neville said with a huge smile. His smile slipped. "So he's a real Deatheater?"
"Yes. And I learned that he was an Animagus from Sirius Black and Remus Lupin in two years in the future."
"Er, Harry? You aren't hearing any voice, are you? That's impossible," Ron said loudly.
"No, not impossible. Very little is impossible in the Wizarding world, Ron." With a wave of his wand, he levitated Pettigew and walked him outside. "I guess this stretch of corridor is as good as any." Fiery lettering erupted from the wand.
With deft swishes of his wand, he quickly wrote, 'Beware, traitor! The Protector of Hogwarts will not allow you to harm those in these halls!' He tacked under it, 'Illegal Animagus,' in a scrawl along with 'Secret Giver.'
Harry turned to the three kids behind him. "Let's get back to my room." One advantage of having his own room, he'd found, is that it was much easier to have some privacy when he needed it. In a short amount of time, they were behind the portrait of the Three Puppies.
"Okay, could someone explain this to me?" Ron suddenly burst out with loudly.
As quickly as he could, Harry explained about being from the future and the fact that he was changing things.
"Wow, Harry. That's really amazing. And you already know all this stuff, that's why you are such a good student." Neville seemed very impressed.
"It's bloody boring is what it is, actually."
"Harry!" Hermione admonished stridently.
"Sorry, Hermione. Now, I can't let anyone else know about this. My knowledge from the future is not only invaluable; it's hugely illegal. I could end up in Azkaban if I'm not careful. That's why I invented the 'Spirit of Hogwarts' thing." Harry took a moment to slip a wand into his trunk and pulled out his regular wand. "I'm sure they've found Pettigew by now. It'll take them a while to figure out what to do, but they might check our wands."
"What about Hermione's wand?" Ron asked.
"Oh, damn. That's why I didn't want you to cast the Animagus spell. I can't believe I forgot that," Harry said as he slapped his forehead.
Hermione snapped her wand out and quickly levitated some knickknacks around the room. "That should do it," she said happily.
And not a moment too soon, as the door to the guest room opened. "Ah, there you are Harry. And the other, missing Gryffindors, I see." Professor McGonagall said as she entered.
"Is something up, professor?" Harry asked with fake concern.
"Yes. There has been a disturbance and we just wanted to make sure everyone was safe." Professor McGonagall looked around the room, as if she could spot something important that would tell her that they were lying about where they had been. "Well, off to bed. Come on, off to bed. You can talk tomorrow."
"Harry! Harry! Guess what?" Hermione called out from the Gryffindor's table.
"What?" he asked as he slid next to her. He gave her a big grin.
"My parents said that you could come and visit over the holidays. Isn't that great?"
Ron looked glum. "Mum and Dad are off to Romania. So I'm going to be stuck here for the holidays."
"Oh, I'm sorry Ron. I thought you were going home like everyone else?" Hermione did look contrite as she looked over at him.
"Well, I've got my brothers, so it won't be too bad," the redhead said. "Well, except for Percy of course." He grinned at Percy.
That particular person's ears turned red even as he tried his best to ignore his youngest brother's jibe.
"You should be happy, Ron. At least you've got family that cares." Harry gave him a stern look. "I've only got my Aunt's family. And I've told you how horrible they are."
Ron grinned. "I know. Hogwarts isn't that bad. I just wanted to get out. Maybe next year, you can all come over to my place for Christmas?"
"That sounds great. I only wish I could offer to have you two come over to my house sometime. But I really don't think my uncle would deal with our kind at all."
"Then I'll have to have you come over for part of the summer holidays!" the young red haired boy exclaimed.
"I'll take you up on that."
The trip on the Hogwarts Express was quite different this time around. Everyone had to stop by and say hello. Neville even dropped off a small present.
Harry was not happy to see this particular person who arrived afterwards.
"Harry Potter heading home to his Muggle relatives? Well, I guess any home has to do, even when you are the Boy Who Lived," Draco Malfoy said from the doorway. His two cronies hulked behind him, blocking the entrance.
"Hello, Malfoy. Off to visit your family?" Harry said as politely as he could.
"Yes." He sighed theatrically. "We only have time for a small cruise this year. What are you going to be doing? Singing carols and playing in this awful snow?"
"I believe so. It sounds like a grand old time." He smiled at the irate Slytherin, not letting him derive any pleasure from the encounter.
"Mums going to be cooking a huge turkey for Christmas dinner, just for us," Hermione explained happily.
Draco gave her a withering glare. "Oh, so you are spending your holidays with the-" The pale-skinned and haired boy blinked in sudden surprise to find himself starting down the business end of Harry's wand.
"I wouldn't finish that sentence, if I were you. If you ever call her that horrible name again, you will regret it for a very, very long time," Harry said with an intensity that was frightening to behold.
Hermione just blinked in surprise. She had barely seen him move, much less pull out his wand. "Harry! Don't! You'll get in trouble!"
"Some things are worth getting in trouble for," Harry said in a deadly earnest voice. "Right, Malfoy?"
Sweat was trickling down Draco's forehead. "I would guess so, Potty." He licked his lips nervously. "How much do you actually know how to do with that wand?"
"Enough." Harry's green eyes met the washed-out-blue eyes of the Slytherin. "I think it is time for you to leave, don't you?"
"Yes, I do agree. I'll see you after the holidays." Draco stepped back slowly until he was outside the compartment and then turned and walked off as if nothing had happened.
From that point on, nobody really seemed intent to intrude on the angry young man that had caused the Slytherins to flee so quickly.
As the train entered the station and the students disembarked, they saw a couple of familiar faces awaiting them.
"Mum! Dad!" Hermione yelled as she broke through the crowded homecomings. She was swept up in a tight hug.
Harry's throat tightened. What he wouldn't give to have a family that cared that much for him.
John Granger gripped his shoulder with ease, as if to say welcome. "So this is the Harry that swept up our Hermione, hmm? It's nice to meet you. Although, with all that Hermione has written about you, I almost feel like we've met before."
"Yes, it's wonderful to meet you." Jane Granger had a pleasant smile too, though it was obvious that they were very protective of the young girl.
On the drive home, the three Grangers talked about all of the things that had happened in the last few months. They were all clambering out the nice tan minivan that they owned when Harry slipped into a bit of dirty snow in front of the large house. Harry couldn't see much of the yard, as it was all covered by the same snow that he'd fallen into.
"Drat," she said. "I really hate that."
"You all right, Harry?" The older man looked over at the snow coated figure as it stood up. "If you are, I could use a hand with your trunks. And call me John, if you don't mind."
"Come on, Ginger! We'll show Hedwig where you'll be staying," Hermione said as she grabbed both cages. It was obvious that Hermione hadn't noticed what had happened to the 'Boy' Who Lived.
"Yes, sir." Harry hurried over to help as best she could with carrying the trunks.
Jane looked over Harry critically as they finished unloading the van. "Those clothes fit absolutely horribly."
"Let me tighten my belt," Harry said quickly. With a quick adjustment to the belt, her pants were suddenly in less danger of falling. She had to turn up her pants again. She was even shorter as a girl, it seemed.
Mrs. Granger seemed to look a bit confused for a second for some reason. "Well, we'll have to go shopping later. You room is down here, next to the kitchen. Why don't you go freshen up?" She then turned and headed upstairs.
Harry shrugged and then checked out her room. It was much nicer than the Dursley's guest room. The bed was much bigger and more pleasant. And from what Harry could see, it was overlooking the garden out back.
"Harry? Are you a boy or a girl?" Mrs. Granger asked from the doorway suddenly.
"Er, a boy actually. I have a curse that turns me into a girl with cold water." Oh, that explained her odd look, Harry thought to herself.
Jane pursed her lips thoughtfully. "If you have any questions, I'd be more than happy to answer them for you."
"I try to switch back as quickly as I can. It's just a bit of hot water, really." Harry pulled out her wand, when she remembered that she couldn't cast spells during the holidays. "Drat."
"I'll have my husband heat up some water. We have a little tea pot that can heat it up in thirty seconds," she offered brightly.
"Thanks. I really appreciate it."
The doorbell rang suddenly. "Oh, that must be the babysitter." Jane disappeared off towards the front door.
Curious, Harry followed. She saw her greet an older teenaged girl and take a very bundled and upset baby from her. After paying the babysitter and sending her on the way, she turned back to Harry. "Oh, I'm sorry. I forgot all about you for a second. Let me get that hot water for you." She headed into the kitchen, the baby on her hip.
Mutely fascinated, Harry couldn't help but follow. She was handed the baby, surprising both her and the baby. "Er, hello?"
"Just hold her a second while I get your water going. How much and how hot does it need to be?" Jane was busy around the kitchen heating the water and pulling some groceries from the cooler.
"About two cups. It does need to be pretty warm," Harry replied as she stared at the baby.
The baby just stared back, not sure what to make of the stranger holding her. Her face suddenly scrunched up as she started to cry.
Jane deftly snagged the girl up gently cradle her closely. "You are such a fuss-pot, Alice Granger. You might even like Harry here, you know?" Her words had a slight sting to them, but the tone was of pure love."
"I didn't know Hermione had a sister," Harry said softly, looking at the suddenly gurgling bundle of joy.
"Oh, yes. I'm not sure that Hermione really knows what to make of her yet. Luckily she doesn't feel too neglected. Our Hermione always was satisfied with a book. Once she figured them out, that is."
"Exactly what are we doing here?" Harry asked uncertainly. He was looking at racks of new clothing.
Hermione reached up and took down a pair of slacks. "We, meaning my parents and me, are getting you some decent clothes. Clothes that are meant to fit only Harry Potter."
"You really don't have to. I'm sure that will be very expensive." His green eyes looked around nervously at the saleslady that was staring at his ill-fitting clothing. "We weren't planning on going to Gringotts so I can trade some of my coins. I can't pay you back."
She turned on him suddenly. "You are not going to be churlish and refuse our gift, are you?" she said with a dangerous tone.
"Er, no?" Harry suddenly backed off a bit. Scary-Hermione had reared her head. Harry knew that tone of voice very well.
"Harry?" Hermione asked, obviously confused. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing," he replied absently.
Behind Harry, John was watching them closely. A frown appeared on his face. He quickly forced a smile there instead. "Time is a wasting, you two. We still have presents to buy."
So after a wonderful day of buying clothes that were designed for a small boy instead of a baby whale, they went and did a wonderful thing called Christmas shopping. This was a totally new experience for Harry, as he'd never been allowed enough money to really purchase anything significant.
At Hermione's suggestion, Harry even bought the Dursleys a few small, mundane items for their presents.
As they were driving back the Granger's home, Hermione's father suddenly asked, "Harry, would you mind if I invited your Aunt and Uncle over for dinner? I would like to meet them."
The boy looked confused but then nodded. "I'm not sure they'll want to come, when they discover that Hermione is a witch. They really don't like magical things at all."
"All we can do is send them an invitation," Mrs. Granger said. She raised an eyebrow at her husband.
Without taking his eyes of the road, the older man replied, "Well, that's settled then."
Harry looked into the mirror at an unusual sight. What was he could see, it looked like an ordinary boy with green eyes behind his glasses. A bit of his scar was peaking out from under his mostly tamed hair. He tugged fitfully at his collar, as it seemed uncommonly tight. He had never owned the type of clothing that most people would use to go to church before.
Harry was quite surprised to discover that the Granger's went every Sunday. Even more surprisingly, Hermione was quiet and attentive, even though he was fairly sure she wasn't overly religious.
The Dursleys never allowed him to go. He was almost sure that it was due to his being a wizard.
Harry stepped out of the bathroom and into the cozy place that was his girlfriend's home. Christmas decorations had been liberally strewn about and a large tree dominated the living room. The dining room was all set out for ten. Mr. Granger had invited some family friends of his from college.
"Ah, so you're Harry?" the loud, beefy and smiling Mr. Smith said as he spotted the slight lad. "We need to get some meat on you, lad." His red hair reminded Harry of Ron suddenly.
His son had sandy-blond hair and an engaging smile. He was a year younger than Hermione. "Hello!" He waved to Harry. It looked like he and Hermione had already started to talk.
The doorbell rang, signaling that Harry's family had arrived. He had been absolutely surprised when they had taken the Granger's up on their offer for dinner. Mr. Granger met them at the door with a cheerful smile.
Vernon immediately sized up everyone present and found them to be wonderfully normal from what he could tell. "Hello, Mr. Granger. This was quite the surprise to be invited over. This is my son Dudley and my lovely wife Petunia."
"Pleased to meet you," John replied. "This is my wife Jane and my daughter Hermione. And these are the Smiths. Mark and Melissa and their son Frank. Now that everyone is here, how about we get started with supper? Jane has a wonderful pudding that you just have to try."
Harry was watching fearfully for the Dursleys to do something horrid, but they seemed to be on their best public behavior.
"Harry? Could you help with setting the food on the table?" John asked blandly.
"Sure!" Harry jumped at the chance to help out the Grangers. They had been terribly nice to him.
Everyone else sat at the table while the Grangers and Harry helped set the table full of food. Jane was just finishing putting down the salad when John handed a bowl of vegetables and dip to him. To Harry's horror, it slipped from his grasp right at his uncle's feet with a shattering crash.
"Boy!" roared Vernon as he surged to his feet and pulled back his fist... to suddenly find it held tightly by Mr. Smith. Hermione squeaked in terror at the sudden confrontation.
"You weren't going to hit that poor boy for dropping the food, were you?" Mark asked with a decidedly chilly tone.
"The unnatural brat needs disciplining to become a proper person," Vernon replied loudly. His mustache was quivering in anger.
The two beefy men glared at each other. "I had hoped you were wrong, John. I really did. But Harry has all the classic signs of coming from an abusive home," Mr. Smith said to John. "This just confirms it."
"Are you accusing me of being an improper parent?" Harry's uncle nearly shouted. He was almost quivering in rage.
"Yes." With his free hand, he reached into his jacket and pulled out a slim leather wallet. "And that will be Detective Mark Smith of the London Bobbies to you."
Aunt Petunia face went from angrily-sour to downright terrified. "You aren't going to arrest him, are you?"
"No, I don't have anything to hold you on. Yet. But I will be talking to Department of Children Welfare about this. He is undernourished and shies away from any man that looks to threaten him at all. Yes, all the signs of an abused boy." Mark was giving a very angry glare at Vernon.
"I have never been so humiliated! Come along, Petunia! We don't have to stand for this!" And with that, the Dursleys left post-haste.
Harry couldn't raise his eyes too look at everyone else. He just got a rag and started to clean up the mess he's made. The glass bowl had shattered and required a bit of concentration to pick up.
"Harry, you don't have to do that," John said quietly as he kneeled next to the boy.
"I'm really sorry for ruining your evening. I didn't mean to break your bowl." The young boy couldn't bear the looks of worry on everyone's face, especially Hermione's look.
"No, you didn't. And I should apologize. I set that up to see what your uncle would do. He's a total lout," John said angrily.
"You... set that up?" Harry asked, anger seeping into his voice.
"Harry, I had to see for myself what he was like and what he would do. No boy should be afraid like that. And no one should ever be physically hurt like he was going to do to you. I greased the pan I handed you."
Harry took a deep breath and then shrugged. He really was getting better at handling his anger. "It's really no big deal. I'm at school most of the year. And he doesn't hit me much anymore. I even have my own room now."
"Harry! You grew up in a closet!" Hermione said determinedly. "That isn't right. That's just horrible."
"And everyone deserves to be loved by their family," Jane said with that same look of determination. "Harry, we want you to be happy and loved. You are a very bright and caring person. I am very proud of how good a person you really are, considering whom you had to learn from. You can always stay with us."
"Stay here?" Harry had never, in the wildest of his daydreams, ever considered that the Grangers would want him to live with him.
"Yes. I don't know if we can adopt you, but we would be more than happy to try," John informed emphatically.
"What about my situation?" Harry's eyes darted over towards the detective and his family.
Mark just laughed. "Oh, that you are a wizard? I think I will be fine with that. It just means more paper work."
"Dad, what do you mean?" Frank asked.
"It's a bit complicated, son." The detective sized him up. "I guess that means I'll have to actually go over to Diagon Alley and try to not lose my memories, again. They've done that a time or two. Luckily, I keep copious notes on my cases. And they don't really understand tape recorders very well."
"How did you learn about the Wizarding world?" Harry asked curiously.
"Not many people do, of course, but when you end up at odd crime scenes you see some very strange things. I happened to be off getting a bite for me and my partner after I'd seen some magic. But when I came back, I discovered that no one could remember the incident and had written up their reports for a domestic dispute. That made me a bit cautious for a year or so, until I could approach one of them about it. After the third time, they just quit messing with my memory. Especially after I became a bit of a liaison. Some of the new technology has made it a bit tough for them Auror types."
"There is still this supper to eat, everyone! Let's eat up and then John and Mark can discuss what needs to be done to make sure that Harry never goes back to those horrid people," Jane said forcefully to get the interrupted dinner back into motion.
Dinner was only interrupted once more by Alice waking up and crying. Once she was in her highchair, she calmed down. She was quite an attention hog. She wasn't really hungry, but kept demanding that her mother only dote on her.
It wasn't until they were cleaning up that everyone's attention was brought firmly back on the baby. Alice had managed to grab Harry's wand from his back pocket when he incautiously leaned over to grab the empty bowl that had carried the greens. With a snapping crack, Harry was blasted by a bolt of light across the room.
Alice started crying again as she dropped the wand, which Hermione quickly snatched away. "Harry?" she called out worriedly.
"I'm... mostly fine." He shook his head and then looked back at everyone who was staring at him. "Well, you know what this means, don't you?"
Jane's mouth dropped in surprise as she looked over at the baby. "Oh, dear. Not more exploding birthday cakes?"
Hermione just smiled uncertainly at her baby sibling. "Well, welcome to the Wizarding world, kiddo. And Harry, you've been turned green."
A sudden clicking at the window brought all the attention as an owl tried to enter the house.
Harry looked up from where he was checking out his green skin. "That's probably from the Department of Misuse of Magic."
John had let the owl in and taken the letter. "How did you know?" he asked as he opened the letter.
"It's probably a warning about magic being done by under age witches or wizards. Could you right them a note saying we need someone from the Accidental Magic Reversal Squad? Oh, and that it was from your youngest daughter who isn't old enough to know better?" Harry took his wand back as he sent a small glare at the tyke, causing her to start crying and Harry to start apologizing to the baby as everyone laughed at him.
Not even ten minutes later, a wizard was knocking on the door. "Hello, I'm from the Accidental Magic Reversal Squad. I understand you have a problem with... Ah, that would be you." The old wizard looked at Harry closely. "And you say that the baby caused this?"
"Yes, she grabbed my wand and here I am. Scared her silly too." Harry just shrugged and held up his hands in defeat.
"Well, I guess congratulations are in order Mr. And Mrs. Granger. You can expect another ten years of excitement and accidental magic, I'm sure. Blimey, you're Harry Potter. I expect that they'll send someone around to check things out more closely, but that's not my job. Let's see what I can do to get you a normal color. I'd hate to have to send you to St. Mungo's for something so trivial." The old wizard smiled, showing off his three teeth. With a couple quick swishes, he fixed up the Boy Who Lived.
After the Granger's had given the Wizard a business card for their joint dental practice, he was off and back out into the snow.
"No car? How is he going to... Oh! He just disappeared," John exclaimed in surprise.
"Apparated away? That's how most adults wizards travel around," Hermione explained with a huge grin.
Harry suppressed a surge of disappointment as he realized that he wouldn't be able to do that for years again. And he hadn't had his license that long!
"Merry Christmas, Harry! Let's go open presents!" Hermione said from the doorway of his room early Christmas morning. She had an absolutely huge smile on her face, with not the slightest trace of her usual reluctance to show her overbite.
"Hrm?" Harry muttered, just before his covers were pulled off of his bed.
This Christmas was quite different from any other that he'd ever had before. The closest he'd ever had to this was the Christmas a Grimauld Place with Sirius before he died. But this cozy gathering of just one family was just what his wounded heart had needed, he realized.
As he opened present after present, a lump in his chest seemed to grow at the same rate. Finally, after they had managed to make a sizable dent, he just couldn't hold in his feelings anymore. Tears of happiness streaked his cheeks, even as he smiled to let everyone know that he was fine.
After presents, they had a huge Christmas breakfast. During Harry's second helping of eggs and bacon, they were interrupted by a ringing at the doorbell.
Hermione ran over to open the door, expecting to see some visiting family. The familiar figure there was not at all whom she expected. "Professor Dumbledore! Come on in!"
Harry and Hermione's parents quickly followed, to see who it was.
"Sorry for intruding, but I had an errand or two while I was in London. I wanted to deliver a present to Harry here. It was his father's, but I believe Harry should have it now. Also, I felt it would be best to introduce a particular gentleman to you, Harry." Dumbledore stepped to the side, to let another man step up to the doorway. "This is Sirius Black, recently acquitted of all charges and freed from Azkaban prison. I must be off; there are places I must be yet this day."
"Sirius Black? I think a friend of mine mentioned you," Harry said warily as he accepted the package from his professor.
"Probably as a Deatheater. No, the real culprit has been caught. I don't know if you know this, but I am your godfather, Harry." The man stood at ease, a small smile on his face. But under the smile was a wariness and pain that his imprisonment had marked onto his soul.
"My godfather?" Harry asked.
"Please, come in. My name is John Granger and this is my daughter Hermione and my wife Jane. Let's get you out of the cold," John said as he escorted him into the house.
"Thank you. I've only recently been released and reinstated in Wizarding society."
Jane smiled and led them towards the kitchen. "Well, you must be starved. We are just eating and I insist that you join us for a bite. Do you drink coffee or tea?"
They were just settled when a wail of displeasure announced that Alice had awoken. Jane went and retrieved their youngest daughter. Jane laughed at the grumpy baby as she settled her on her own lap. "This is Alice, our youngest. We just discovered that she is a witch."
"Oh? What did she do?" Sirius asked. "I hope it wasn't the exploding baby food bottles. Harry did that one when he was very young. Four months or so."
"No, this little scamp decided to grab a wand and blasted Harry with it. Turned him green until that nice man from the ministry showed up." John started making faces Alice until she started to squeal in laughter.
"That's not too uncommon in a pureblood's home. The tyke's know that daddy's wand is how they do magic, so try to do magic too." Sirius just laughed at the poor baby. "So, Harry? How are you doing? I haven't been a very good godfather, but I want to know everything I can."
Harry looked at the Granger's for a moment. At John's nod, he frowned. "I've been living with my aunt's family."
Sirius just gaped. "Lily's Muggle sister? I thought she hated us?"
"She... does. Though Uncle Vernon is worse. He hates everything about the wizarding world." Harry couldn't raise his eyes to meet his godfather's gaze. "I... don't know how to say this, but the Granger's have offered to let me stay with them. They even want to adopt me."
"They seem very nice to you. So I wouldn't say no. Now, if I remember that woman rightly, she was absolutely horrible to Lily. James hated her with a passion. I'd like to be there for you now, Harry. I've got my inheritance from the Black estate and I'll be moving back into Grimauld Place. And I've got a lot of catching up to do, too." Sirius ruffled Harry's hair affectionately.
"I'd like that. I really would. Could Hermione and I go sometime?' Harry asked his new family.
"I don't see why not. Sirius, if you don't mind, why were you in prison and then released?" the father asked cautiously.
Sirius sighed, suddenly looking years older. "A stupid mistake that cost me the lives of my two best friends. I trusted someone, only to see that person betray them to You Know Who. It's my fault that Harry lost his parents to Peter Pettigrew's betrayal."
"You Know Who? I'm sorry, but I don't-" Jane started to ask with a confused tone.
"Voldemort, the Dark Lord and the man who killed my parents." Harry's voice was harsh with pain and anger.
Sirius blinked. "You're braver than many a wizard, Harry. Most, even now, won't say his name. But, I expected you to be very angry with me, Harry."
"I've heard horrible things about Azkaban and its guards."
Sirius just nodded. "The Dementors delight in stealing all happy thoughts from their prisoners. I... had a means of keeping my sanity, luckily. Otherwise, I probably wouldn't be here."
And that was how Harry spent the best Christmas of his entire life.
Life back at Hogwarts, after the holidays, was fairly quiet. Percy, surprisingly enough, had followed up with the older years making sure the younger students actually did learn more than Professor Quirrell was willing to teach.
Which, cast into the right light, was indeed sinister, Harry ruminated. He turned to his friends who were just finishing up their studies in his private room. "Come on, Hermione and I have something to show you guys."
Ron and Neville shared a surprised look. "What's up, Harry?" the redhead asked.
"It's a surprise, Ron!" Harry waggled his finger at him.
Soon they were in front of a very special room on the seventh floor. "It's that Room of Requirement, right Harry?" Neville exclaimed.
Harry nodded as he led them all inside and locked the door. He glared at a portrait on the wall, sending the picture fleeing from the frame. "That isn't supposed to be here. Dumbledore must suspect something."
"But Dumbledore is the headmaster. If we can't trust him, who can we trust?" Neville asked in surprise.
"Just ourselves. There isn't anyone in this room that I don't trust with my life," he said seriously. "Dumbledore manipulated me in that other time." Not even death had stopped his machinations.
"But Harry," Neville interjected poorly. It was obvious he couldn't see where he fit in here.
"Neville, all you need to do is believe in yourself. After Voldemort broke the Lestranges out of prison, only Hermione managed to master curses and jinxes faster than yourself."
"You Know Who broke...?" The pudgy boy went suddenly pale.
"The couple that drove your parents insane with the Cruiciatus Curse."
"More of that future thing, Harry?" Ron asked with a whisper.
"Yes. Voldemort has his Deatheaters. I need friends that are willing to stand up against him, in the future. Those who are willing to do right and stand up against his evil. And I can think of no better than you three to be with me." Harry's eyes showed them the seriousness of his plea.
"Well, I never said I wanted to live to a ripe old age," Ron quipped.
"Of course we are with you, Harry." Hermione just smiled encouragingly.
"I don't know what I can do to help, but I guess so," Neville said with a little, helpless shrug. "I'm not good at spells though."
"Neville, I taught you some really nasty curses before. Trust me when I say, all you need is a little faith in yourself. I know you can do it." Harry smiled encouragingly to him.
"Are we going to be a secret society? Like Voldemort has his Deatheaters?" the young girl asked.
"Yes, in essence. What to call us?" the Boy Who Lived muttered aloud.
"How about the Order of the Phoenix?" Ron asked brightly. "My mum mentioned it once."
"No, that's Dumbledore's group." Harry could barely disguise his distaste for that idea.
"Well, since we're going to be about helping you fight V-Vol-You Know Who, how about we use that," Neville said as he pointed at Harry's forehead.
"Scarheads? That's a horrible name, Neville." Ron sounded terribly scandalized.
"No, I meant a bolt of lightning," Neville said defensively.
"Order of the Lightning?" Hermione mused softly.
"Band of the Emerald Bolt. Because we are a band of friends. And the scar is shaped light lightning. And emerald, because of my mother's eyes."
"So now what?" Hermione asked.
"Now we prepare to make sure Voldemort can't steal the Philosopher's Stone." Harry looked very grim about that.
"Can't we just make sure Voldemort is defeated right now? You said he was very weak." Ron's tactical mind had started to plan already.
"The only problem, Ron, is that he's not killable right now. He might be little more than a ghost, but he's a ghost that survived the Killing Curse that rebounded on him." Harry did not want to go over Horcruxes right now.
"Now, the stone is being guarded by some really nice tricks. The only one that Voldemort won't know how to get past is the Mirror of Erisland. And I don't think he will be able to do so, actually. So we don't have any real worry about this year other than not getting caught doing what needs to be done for next year."
"What is going to happen next year?" Hermione asked worriedly.
Harry glared at the returning portrait until it fled again. He'd been watching for it to try and sneak back. Dumbledore definitely suspected something. "Draco Malfoy's father, Lucius Malfoy, is going to release the monster in the Chamber of Secrets." Harry suddenly looked over at Hermione, nearly breaking down crying. "It nearly killed about five students. Including you, Hermione."
"The professors couldn't deal with a monster?" Ron asked in bewilderment. "I mean, this is Dumbledore you are talking about!"
"Lucius Malfoy manipulated the Governors into sacking Dumbledore. It was his plan all along. He's got a book with a bit of Tom Riddle's spirit within it. With the right sacrifice, he can be brought back to life from just it!" the Boy Who Lived explained.
"Sacrifice?" Neville said in a squeaky voice.
"Lucius gave the book to a young girl who thought it was just a fancy diary. She poured her soul into it, and nearly died. I, uh, confronted Riddle, killed the Basilisk and then killed the diary. Ginny was able to recover." Harry could not meet Ron's eyes as he finished.
The youngest Weasley boy just turned incredibly pale at that. "Who was this Riddle fellow? Is he dead already? No one dares to hurt my sister and gets away with that."
"Ron, Tom Riddle is Voldemort's real name. Lucius has a book that can resurrect Voldemort? Why hasn't he used it before?" Hermione said fearfully.
"He's a calculating bastard that was probably going to try an manipulate a young Voldemort for his own power. If he couldn't, he's back to where he was before, the right-hand man of Voldemort and a powerful Death Eater. If he could control a younger Tom Riddle, he will become a new Dark Lord."
Neville squeaked in terror. "And we're going to be taking them both on?"
"No, Neville. We're going to defeat Voldemort and all of his Death Eaters. Not just those two." Harry looked very determined when he made that pronouncement.
"So how do we fight a Basilisk?" Hermione asked. That sounded far more dangerous than a troll.
"We don't. We'll let one of Hagrid's chickens kill it." Harry smiled at that. The portrait of the man with the overly large ruffle returned again and with a huff, sat down. Harry glared at him again, but the picture seemed unphased.
"What?" the man in the picture snapped finally when all of the children looked at him.
"We are trying to have a private conversation," Harry said pointedly.
"Don't mind me. I'm just a picture, you know."
Hermione narrowed her eyes thoughtfully. It appeared that Harry was right, Dumbledore did suspect something.
Harry suddenly stood up and levitated the picture off the wall. The picture started to protest immediately.
"Put me down! You might harm me! What are you doing?" the picture shouted.
"I'm just putting you outside."
"This is an outrage! How dare you!" it blustered. "You can't do that! It's against school rules!"
Without any further words, Harry set the painting outside the room of requirement. He closed both doors, his wand still clenched tightly in his hands. With a strangled yell, he exploded a shelf of dark magic detectors. With clenched teeth, he glared around the room, looking for something else to vent his anger on.
"Harry! Please don't! We... we should probably leave for now. I'm sure someone will have heard that!" Hermione cried out.
Behind her, Neville just fainted dead away with a thump to the ground.
"Oh... god." Harry collapsed to his knees while dropping his wand. He clutched his forehead. "I'm so sorry. I just got so angry. He tried to control me. Dumbledore forced me to live fifteen years with my awful relatives. I just can't stand him! I can't!"
Hermione's hand touching his shoulder caused him to flinch. His tear filled eyes looked up her in fear. She touched a single finger to his lips. "Oh, Harry. I can't imagine how hard it was for you." She leaned over and kissed him gently on the lips. "I wish I could take away all your pain, Harry." Hermione was silently crying in sympathy.
"Oy. Get up, Neville! You putting my foot to sleep," Ron said as he gently kicked the unconscious boy. As Neville sat back up in a panic. "And you two! Get a room!" Ron's face turned much more serious suddenly. "You know, Harry? I always thought that I wanted to be you, but I think I'm happy right where I am now."
Harry just smiled at his friend. "Same old Ron. You should show that you love your family more. You have such a great family."
Ron gulped. "Yeah. I think I might even try to be nicer to Percy and Ginny."
Neville looked at everyone closely. "I still don't see how I can be of any use, Harry. I mean I fainted when I thought you might blast me."
"You're braver than you know, Neville. Your gran is a nice lady, but she doesn't try to see that you do good in things you are good at. I happen to know that you are one of the best herboligists that Professor Sprout ever trained. And your very good at hexes when you feel you have to be." Harry stood up. "Just remember. The Neville I know faced off against Death Eaters with a broken nose and didn't cry once."
Neville could almost believe when Harry spoke like that. "I... I'll try, Harry."
"No, Neville, you will do it. I know you will."
"So, Harry? What is our Band of the Emerald Bolt going to do?" Hermione asked as she hugged him lightly, at his side.
"I wish we had our own mark. The tattoo that Voldemort puts on all Death Eaters is some seriously powerful magic and actually increases Voldemort's own power greatly," Harry mused to himself.
"So why don't we?" Ron asked quizzically.
Harry gave Ron a funny look. "That's very dark magic, Ron. Binding Symbols allow Voldemort to find his followers just about anywhere. Not only does it give him more power, none of his followers can ever really challenge him."
"We'll just have to look harder then. There must be something in the library," Hermione mused to herself.
"In the restricted section, of course." The Boy Who Lived looked put out because of that fact.
"Harry, you just got an invisibility cloak, didn't you?" Neville asked.
"There's some sort of spell that causes the books to start screaming if you open them," Harry explained with frustration very evident in his tone.
"Oh! Scawuling's Screaming Shrouds. Gran uses that all the time on her books at home that she doesn't want me reading." Neville smiled at that. "You just need to find the key item, then you will be all set."
Ron, Hermione and Harry looked at Neville with more respect. "Scawulings? I wonder if the spell for that is in the restricted section too?" the young girl mused to herself.
"You just need to watch and find out her key. Once you know that, you just have to know the correct gestures to unlock the book." Neville shrugged.
Harry suddenly grinned. "And I know just how to do that."
The librarian gave Harry a very stern look. "Here is your book, Harry Potter. The Animal Within, a guide to Animagus by Jules Grupt."
"Thank you very much. Just what I need for that extra credit report for Professor McGonagal." Harry walked to one of the many tables and opened it up to start reading. After about a minute, he whispered to the air, "Did you get it?"
"Yes," Hermione's voice said from nowhere.
"Brilliant. Let's go back to my room then," Harry replied.
Harry was grinning madly as he trotted down the corridor to his private room when a water balloon exploded in his face. "Peeves," she shouted. "I'll tell the Bloody Baron, I will!" As the poltergiest started throwing things at the suddenly female Harry, she took off running for her room, protecting the book from the restricted section. Peeves laughter followed her about half the way before he was distracted by Mr. Filch.
After letting herself in, Harry dropped her books and bag on the little table. She pulled at her jumper while sniffing. It appeared that Peeves had used something other than water. It smelled nasty, whatever it was. Harry pulled off her jumper and bloomers and rinsed off the smell.
She was just pulling on a new pair bloomers when the portrait opened to admit seemingly nothing.
"Very fetching, Miss Potter," Hermione said as she reappeared from under Harry's cloak. "You should get a training bra soon, methinks."
Harry just blushed while quickly grabbing a T-shirt from her trunks. It was one of Dudley's hand me downs and far too large. "Hush you. Hopefully Dumbledore comes up with a cure soon. I don't want to be known as the Boy or Girl or Whatever That Lived." She leaned over to pick up her socks.
Hermione just giggled. "Oh, I don't know. It could adventurous, wouldn't you say? And Ron did say that there were wizards and witches who were into that sort of thing! Oh, and Harry? You really shouldn't lean over like that in such a loose top. I could see just about everything."
The some time girl stood back up with alacrity. "Did you like the show, Miss Granger?" she asked with a laugh.
With a twinkle in her eye, she just replied, "Not bad at all, actually. As long as it is you, of course." Hermione walked over to Harry and took her hand. "That's all that matters."
Harry suddenly wanted nothing more than to snog Hermione senseless right then, but held back.
Seeing a look of pure desire in Harry's eye, but nothing happening, Hermione suddenly leaned forward to kiss Harry lightly on the lips. She put her hand over Harry's heart. "You are just Harry. The very special boy that I've fallen in love with."
Harry flushed. Building up her courage, Harry leaned forward and kissed Hermione forcefully on the lips. They arms twined around them, holding them close for a long moment.
"That was some kiss," Hermione said finally as they broke apart. "Oh, Harry. I feel I'm falling so hard for you."
Harry just started crying. She was so happy that it seemed to hurt. Hermione just held her tightly, making shushing noises.
"I'll always be here, Harry. At your side."
Ron, Neville and Harry were sitting in Harry's private room a week later. Harry sat on the edge of his bed, one arm loosely wrapped around Hermione's waist. "You absolutely aced that Herboligy test, Neville. I'm glad I studied for it off your notes."
Neville was finally starting to come out of his shell. He'd found that having good friends who really cared for him had done wonders for his ego. "Thank. And Hermione's notes in Potions helped me get a passing grade."
Harry let go of Hermione to reach for some notes. "I've been researching up on Dark Marks. With Hermione's help, I think I've got it mostly figured out. I think I can use an older form of the Mark to imbue us all with the ability to share our strengths, not just focus it on the leader, like Voldemort does."
"Brilliant. So we'll all be able to cast magic like you, Harry?" Ron said eagerly.
"Er, not quite. You'll be able to draw on our strengths, but you still have to know how to cast the spells. And you guys are all cracking good any ways." Harry grinned at his friends.
"What about you, Harry?" Neville asked.
"I already have quite a bit of power, thanks to this stupid scar on my forehead." Harry tapped that. "I might end up being a little more powerful than Voldemort, but he has way more knowledge than I could ever hope to learn before we fight."
Ron and Neville whistled. "Stronger than Voldemort? That's... I don't know what to say." Ron was flabbergasted.
"It's not just his strength, Ron. Voldemort is very, very intelligent. Almost as much as Hermione here." Harry gave her a quick hug.
"But you don't want to fight him this year?" Neville asked.
"No. I don't think he can get the Philosopher's Stone out of the Mirror of Erisland. So most likely he'll still be trying when Dumbledore gets back from the Ministry of Magic."
"So you want to make sure that the basilisk is killed first?" Hermione asked.
"Right. It shouldn't be that tough. I know where and how to open the Chamber, we just need to get a trained rooster and have it crow at the basilisk and it'll die."
Ron whistled. "That's why you've been hanging out with Hagrid and his chickens! You've been training them to crow on command! That's devious, mate!"
"So when are we going to do it?" Neville asked nervously.
"Why not today? Everyone is outside. We can sneak out to Hagrid's and grab your singing chickens and then go to the Chamber. It sounds like a marvelous adventure." Hermione smiled at Harry encouragingly.
"Alright then. Ron, Neville? Grab my broom and meet me outside the girl's bathroom on the second floor."
"Open! Open!" Harry hissed at the faucet. Ron and Neville looked around nervously as the secret panel opened.
"You're a Parsletongue, Harry?" Ron asked, very pale.
"Another gift thanks to my link to Voldemort," he replied.
Neville spoke tentatively, "Harry, are you a dark wizard?" He looked about ready to faint again.
Hermione gasped. "Don't be silly, Neville!"
"Hermione, I l-l-- care a great deal for you, but please don't answer for me. Yes, Neville, I am a dark wizard. That's not to say that I'm really an evil wizard, but my strengths lay towards the Dark Arts. Thanks to this damn scar, of course. Voldemort forged a link between us. I got a lot of my magical might from that." Harry looked at all of the seriously. "I couldn't avoid that. It would be like Ron ignoring how good he is at chess, Neville is at herboligy and Hermione at just about anything related to books."
"Well, shall we? We've got an adventure to deal with today," Ron suddenly pronounced vigorously to change the subject.
In three quick trips, Harry carried them all down into the tunnels below Hogwarts. With far more confidence than he had felt ages ago when he first entered the Chamber of Secrets, Harry led them to the great vault door. "Here we go. Everybody ready to unfreeze their roosters?"
The other three nodded. They all showed their rooster, still frozen with the body-binding spell.
"Okay, go hide out of sight of the pool. I should be able to summon the basilisk. Whatever you do, don't look it in the eyes. I brought a dagger to blind it after its dead." Harry then opened this last door and led them into the Chamber of Secrets.
Amazingly enough, it went almost as planned. The basilisk came out of its nest at Harry's call and the unfrozen roosters finished it off almost instantly. Harry then very carefully dealt with its still dangerous eyes by finger-touch alone and a knife.
"The only thing bad about this adventure," Ron said with a grin, "is that we can't tell anyone what we've done!"
They all laughed at that.
Hermione suddenly piped up, "Hey, Harry? Do you think Slytherin left something for his heir here? Other than a monster to control?"
Harry blinked. "That's bloody brilliant. Why didn't I ever think about that?"
"Harry! Language!" she replied back, scandalized.
"No, that's really brilliant. A monster would not have been enough. There must be books and such here. But where would they be hidden?" he asked.
With that, they spread out to search around. It was almost an hour later when Hermione noticed small little snakes carved into a wall, just above her head. "Harry!"
"What did you find?" Ron asked as everyone congregated to her location.
"Snakes! Like the tap upstairs!" Neville exclaimed.
"Back up. It may be a trap," Harry said. Once they were back a few feet, he started whispering to the snakes. After just a few minutes, a secret door finally opened.
Hermione looked at Harry's disgusted countenance. "What's wrong, Harry?"
"I had to tell it I was Slytherin's heir. Come one, let's see what's in here." Harry led them into the spartan interior. There was a small shelf of books and a reading table. Harry suddenly grabbed Hermione's hand back from the books. "Careful. These books are dangerous Dark Arts books." He examined them carefully.
"Is there anything that could help you against You Know Who?" Neville asked nervously.
Harry suddenly grinned. "I can't believe it! These books are almost worthless!"
"What?" shouted Ron and Hermione.
"For their age, they were the darkest arts there were. But compared to some more modern works, it is terribly dated. I think the Hogwart's Restricted section has all but two of these books. For historical purposes."
"And what about that last book, Harry?" the young girl asked.
"That's interesting in a historical sense too, but that's just because its Slytherin's diary, I think. We should make sure these are all found by one of the teachers. Probably McGonagal. She'll make sure they are binned properly in the Restricted Section."
Harry grabbed a few books and had the others get the rest, with only a quick warning to not open them. They could still be trapped, after all. They were soon back up in their common room, after dropping off the forbidden books in McGonagal's classroom. Harry kept the diary though.
"We should do that more often," Ron enthused.
"I'm sure we'll have more adventures. But we don't need to go seek them out, I'm sure they'll find us any ways." Harry just grinned at his three friends in happiness. Things were different. Everyone would be safe, he hoped.
"There you four are!" Fred Weasley shouted, followed a moment later by George. "We were beginning to think that you had abandoned the school. Mom would probably kill us if we lost ickle Ronnie!"
"Guys! Let me go!" Ron complained as the twins him over to sit next to them.