A Slightly Different Harry
Harry heard a crash downstairs at Number Four, Privet Drive. Burglars? But burglars would surely be careful not to make so much noise, even if they thought no one was home. Harry heard the various locks click, saw his door swing open. He held his wand firmly and stepped out into the corridor, knowing that even if they had greater numbers, he had the home ground advantage.
"Potter?" A voice called up the stairs. The voice sounded familiar – it was the voice of the impostor who'd taken Defence Against the Dark Arts all last year. Could it be the real Mad Eye Moody? Or were Voldemort's followers playing with Polyjuice again?
"Woah! Oops!" A woman's voice called. There was another crash, followed by some laughter.
"You all right, Tonks?" A deep man's voice asked.
"Fine. Just tripped over my own feet, that's all. It's so dark in here!"
"You need to be able to see your feet to stand on them?" the man asked, his voice gently teasing. The woman laughed reluctantly.
"Lumos," the man commanded. Light flooded the downstairs hall, illuminating Harry standing above them. He pressed himself back against the wall before they could see him, furiously debating with himself what to do.
"What does he look like?" A woman with bright pink hair demanded. The hair obviously belonged to the voice of the woman who couldn't stand in the dark.
"He looks like his father," a familiar voice said, "but he has his mother's eyes." Harry barely contained a groan at the phrase he'd heard far too many times. Then he realised why the voice was familiar. It had the kind, grave but sad tone he remembered all too well from Patronus lessons. Remus Lupin! Or was it? How could he be sure?
He began to edge his way along the upstairs hall, to the top of the stairs.
"Where is he?" another woman was eagerly demanding.
"He might be asleep," someone else suggested.
"Maybe those Dursleys took him with them," another voice offered.
"Not likely," the-man-who-might-be-Lupin said gravely.
"Harry Potter!" the pink-haired woman yelled up the stairway.
Harry chose that moment to step out of the darkness and into the light at the top of the stairs.
"Can I help you?" he asked calmly.
He'd given them an awful shock. That much was evident. A few gasped, one stepped backward, and all raised their wands before they realised it was him. Only Moody seemed unruffled.
"Come on downstairs, Potter. Let's take a look at you. We wouldn't want to take an impostor back by mistake, now would we? Come on, boy!"
Harry remained where he was.
"Who are you and what do you want with me?"
Many looked surprised. Moody looked faintly approving. Lupin just looked sad.
"Hello, Harry," he said, as if perhaps Harry hadn't seen him yet.
"Who are you?" Harry repeated.
"You know me," Lupin explained, "and, while you haven't actually met before, no doubt you know that this is Alastor Moody."
Harry nodded, still not lowering his wand.
"And the rest?"
"Members of the Order of the Phoenix, a group of wizards and witches devoted to fighting the Dark Arts, led by Albus Dumbledore," he paused, letting Harry soak this in.
"Harry, let me introduce you to Kingsley Shacklepot, Daedalus Diggle," Harry nodded at him, remembering the face from the Leaky Cauldron, "Hestia Jones, Nymphadora Tonks," the woman with the pink hair. The list went on.
"And finally, Arthur Weasley," Lupin finished. Harry's eyes narrowed. Even if they hadn't had one awkward meeting at the end of his second year after Harry had saved the man's only daughter, that red hair unmistakeably marked him out as the father of his schoolyard enemy. "I believe you've met before," Lupin observed, when Harry said nothing.
Harry forced himself to pause before either shooting out curses or lowering his wand. It didn't seem entirely implausible, and sending Arthur Weasley was a nice touch that Harry doubted the Dark Lord would have thought of. But he had to be sure.
"What was our first Defence class on?" he asked Lupin.
"Boggarts," Lupin responded easily.
"What did you teach me privately?" Harry pressed him.
"Patronuses," Lupin replied patiently.
Harry didn't lower his wand.
"Why did Sirius Black escape from Azkaban?"
"To kill Peter Pettigrew, also known as Scabbers the rat." He was beginning to seem a little fed up at the continued interrogation. "Will you come down now?"
But Harry needed to ask Lupin something more personal, something that perhaps he, Harry, wasn't supposed to know about, just to be sure.
"What, exactly, is your relationship to Sirius Black?" he asked.
Lupin looked very uncomfortable.
"He is one of my oldest school friends," he stated. Harry just waited. "And my partner," Lupin eventually muttered, going red to the tips of his ears. From the surprised faces around him, Harry guessed this was one of the Order's best-kept secrets.
Harry smirked and lowered his wand, beginning to walk down the stairs.
"How on earth did you know about that, Harry?" Lupin demanded as he recovered from his embarrassment.
Harry's smirk grew wider. "I didn't. But I do now."
Lupin looked rather annoyed, though whether it was at himself or Harry, Harry couldn't tell.
"You may look just like your parents, but you're Slytherin to the core, aren't you?" he demanded. It wasn't meant to be a compliment, but Lupin's voice was rather fond as well as accusatory.
"Only when it suits me," was the ambiguous answer that Harry knew marked him as a true Slytherin.
He smirked again, turning to face the surprised faces of the Order members. He knew he wasn't what they expected. But then, even Lord Voldemort had been surprised by him.
"He looks just like his father, doesn't he?" someone commented. Harry scowled.
"James Potter didn't have an ear ring," Lupin commented dryly. Harry smirked for the third time in less than a minute. "When did you get that interesting addition, Harry?"
He shrugged. "I was staying with the Parkinsons last summer," he noticed some of the Order faces darken with suspicion at the mention of the former Death Eaters, "and Pansy was too nervous to get hers done. So I offered to go first. Besides, it's not just an ear ring. Carries a whole heap of protective charms in it."
"Good boy," Moody commended him. "Constant vigilance. Don't trust your friends."
Harry shrugged. "I don't trust anyone," he pronounced, partly because it was true, partly because he enjoyed upsetting people's image of the Boy Who Lived. It was working. He was pleased to see that one of the women looked distinctly nervous around him. Had Lupin said her name was Emmeline Vance? It was something like that. She was obviously a bit weak – he hadn't even thrown a jinx at them yet.
"So, are we leaving?" he pressed. Lupin nodded.
"Soon as we get the signal."
"Thank Merlin for that," Harry pronounced. "How'd you get rid of the Dursleys?"
"Sent them off to an All England Best Kept Lawn Competition."
Harry laughed, delighted at the image that sped through his mind of the Dursley's faces when they discovered that no such competition existed.
"You'd better pack your things," Shacklepot commented from his precarious position out the window. He was dangling half outside the house, staring at the sky and looking for whatever signal it was they needed.
"I'll give you a hand," the pink-haired woman offered. Harry shrugged.
"Don't bother. Accio trunk! Accio books! Accio letters! Accio firebolt!" he summoned his things and folded them neatly into his trunk with a flick of his wand when they arrived at the foot of the stairs. He slammed the lid of his trunk down. "That should be everything."
The Order members just stared at him in dismay.
"Harry, you know you're not allowed to use under-age magic," Mr Weasley pronounced in the kind of voice Harry imagined he would use in the many lectures he had no doubt had to give the Weasley twins. And how strange it was to hear a Weasley use his first name!
Harry shrugged. "They won't know it was me. Not with you lot here."
Lupin just shook his head. Harry was sure an amused smile crept across his face for a moment.
"So, where are we going? I'm guessing you're not taking me to Malfoy Manor for the summer," he said cheekily.
"Damn right we're not," Moody said, grumbling something about purebloods who didn't know the first thing about wizarding society. Harry wisely ignored it. Most of his best friends were purebloods. And he knew that some of his best friends' parents were Death Eaters. But it didn't mean the two were necessarily intertwined. Whatever the Gryffindors may think, Slytherin did not mean Death Eater.
"We're taking you to the Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix."
Harry's heart leapt for a moment, then sunk dismally. He was certain that he wouldn't be sitting in on the Order meetings, nor would he be able to have any contact with his friends while he was there. Instead, he'd probably be stuck seeing the Weasleys. Urgh.
"Let's go then," he said, keeping his voice level. No one needed to know he was less than happy about this arrangement. At least it got him away from the Dursleys.
Moody raised his wand. Harry's was up and pointed at him before he could say a word.
"What are you doing, Harry?" Lupin demanded.
"He pointed his wand at me!"
"He needs to cast an invisibility charm," Lupin explained patiently.
"Well, he should have said so first. I can do that well enough myself!" And Harry tapped himself on the head, feeling the familiar sensation of icy cold. It was a spell he'd used often enough before – a lot more reliable than an invisibility cloak.
"Jumpy, what?" Tonks commented with a soft laugh to Kingsley Shacklepot.
"You would be too," Harry growled, "if you were the Boy Who Lived and in Slytherin."
She looked disconcerted at being answered by an invisible voice, but had no time to answer as Moody began to hurry them out the door and onto brooms.
Harry thought the protections were rather absurdly designed. He may be invisible, but his broom wasn't. And even Crabbe or Goyle would have been able to guess that the Order members weren't flying in a circle around nothing – he was obviously in the middle. But for once he kept quiet. After the adventures he'd managed to fall into over the last four years at Hogwarts, he was grateful for any protection. And while this group of Order members may seem like a disorganised rabble of hormonal teenagers (the chemistry between Tonks and Shacklepot was, frankly, a little disturbing) he had no doubt that they were fierce fighters.
After nearly an hour of flying, Harry thought he'd never been so cold. He loved flying, but everyone had their limits. He was tempted to 'throw a Pansy' and demand they stop for a break, but the thought of Draco's face if he knew Harry was being 'weak' kept him going. It was another ten minutes before he thought what Draco would say and hit himself about the head for being so stupid.
"Are you a wizard or aren't you?" Draco would demand. "Use a bloody Heating Charm, for Merlin's sake! Anyone could see you were brought by Muggles!"
Harry grinned to himself. Draco would always blame his stupider moments on his Muggle upbringing, though, as Harry pointed out, that was problematic. Did that mean they'd just have to put Draco's inanities down to natural stupidity? Taking one hand off his broom, Harry cast a warming charm onto his clothes while laughing to himself. That was better.
Finally they began their descent. They landed in a dingy square, but before Harry could make any wisecracks, a piece of paper was being shoved under his nose.
Grimmauld Place, eh? Harry looked up to see a large manor growing out of nowhere. He chuckled to himself, a little surprised that the order would use a home protected by a traditional Pureblood Aristocrat charm – Nott's family had the same thing going, on all six of their manors.
"Come on, Harry," Lupin prompted. "We don't have all day."
Harry scowled, which was rather ineffective as he was still invisible, and strode towards the door. Once he was inside the house, he once more raised his wand and relished the liquid warm that revealed him once more.
"Well," Harry began, but stopped as Remus raised his finger to his lips and gestured him into the house. Harry raised an eyebrow, but made no other objection and, as other Order members streamed off in different directions, he followed Lupin and Tonks through the kitchen and into the breakfast room.
The light was so bright that Harry was effectively blinded for a moment, but the voices he heard were enough to convince him that this was going to be a very long summer. They sounded suspiciously like…
Harry blinked. A sea of red was in front of him. Weasleys. Oh dear God.
"Harry," a familiar voice welcomed him. The room fell silent.
"Are you trying to blind me with all this red hair?" Harry quipped to Lupin as the man headed back into the kitchen with a wicked smile on his face. It was the familiar voice in the corner who reprimanded him.
"Now, now, Harry. Play nice," the voice insisted. Standing up from the shadows, Sirius Black strode towards him, his arm outstretched. Harry gladly went forward to meet him and shook his hand warmly.
"Sirius. How are you?" he said warmly, if a little formally. Harry and Sirius got on fine – Sirius never forgot that Harry had rescued him from the Dementors, just as Harry never forgot that Sirius was his godfather. But there was no real warmth in their relationship. Sirius was torn between seeing Harry as a Slytherin, and seeing him as James Potter, reincarnated. Harry didn't like being labelled as either. Sirius was very uncomfortable with Harry's friendly relationship with Professor Snape while Harry resented their continued bickering. And Sirius was a little in awe of the godson who'd already survived attacks by Lord Voldemort four times. Harry resented anyone treating him like a hero, and suspected Sirius saw the scar on his forehead more often than he saw the boy behind it. They got on fine, and Harry was grateful to have at least one person he could call family who cared what happened to him. But he would never go to Sirius with anything personal. Then again, that wasn't so strange. Harry never went to anyone with a problem. He wasn't going to risk giving anyone that kind of leverage over him.
"I'm doing all right," Sirius said jovially. "And yourself?"
"Could be worse," Harry said, ignoring the keen look in Sirius' eyes which meant he wanted to talk about Cedric Diggory.
"How're the Muggles?" Sirius demanded, changing the subject and displaying an unusual sensitivity Harry hadn't thought the man capable of.
Harry shrugged. "Ghastly. What else is new?"
Sirius chuckled, then leant forward to whisper in Harry's ear.
"Go easy on the Weasleys, okay? Arthur and Molly are doing me a bit of a favour, after all."
Harry looked at him suspiciously.
"This your family house, Sirius?" he asked.
Sirius nodded. "Lucky me," he said sourly. And Harry understood. Sirius didn't want to be trapped here alone. Remus was often gone on Order business. The Weasleys were here to keep the house a bit more cheerful while meetings went on. Great. Just great. The last thing Harry wanted was some Weasley cheer. But Sirius had asked him to behave.
"Weasley," he greeted Ronald roughly when the pretence of not seeing him was growing thin.
"Potter," was the similarly terse response.
Harry looked over at the twins and an older red-headed male he didn't know, presumably a brother. He said nothing as he sat down awkwardly at the kitchen table.
"Tea, Harry?" Lupin called from the kitchen.
"I'm right, thanks," he replied, firmly ignoring Ron Weasley's glare.
Sirius sat down opposite him.
"So," he began.
"So," Harry replied, when it was clear nothing more was forthcoming.
"How's the little blonde friend?"
"Draco?" Harry asked, confused.
Sirius shuddered. "Would I honestly be asking you how a Malfoy was?"
Harry's eyes flashed and he opened his mouth to retort when Lupin made a timely entrance with several cups of steaming tea in front of him. There was a rather awkward silence as people fussed around with milk, sugar and lemon.
"No, the one on the Hippogriff," Sirius continued, when everyone was settled back into their seats. "The little girl. Zabini, wasn't it?"
"Blaise," Harry said, smiling. "She's fine."
"Just fine?" Sirius waggled his eyebrows suggestively and Harry couldn't help but laugh.
"Yeah, just fine," Harry insisted.
"So when's the wedding?"
"Sirius! We're just friends," and, at Sirius sceptical look, "really," Harry insisted.
It was true too. Blaise was one of his closest friends, especially valuable because her family, at least, had no Death Eater connections. While Harry trusted his friends would never try to hurt him, he would never ask Draco or Theo to stand with him when it meant fighting their own families. At least he knew that Blaise was unlikely to have to make that hard choice.
They'd been friends since his first day, when she'd sat in his compartment on the Hogwarts express, there being no other seats left. She'd told him how nervous she was about the Sorting, how everyone in her family had been in Slytherin and how disappointed they'd be if she wasn't too. At first, he'd been wary. Hagrid had warned him against Slytherin, and Harry hadn't exactly taken a liking to Draco Malfoy the first time they met. But when Blaise introduced them a second time, and Draco realised that Harry really didn't know anything about the wizarding world and could hardly be expected to understand Quidditch, things went a lot smoother. He'd taken the Sorting Hat's advice and chosen Slytherin, when he was also offered Gryffindor, and he'd never regretted it.
He'd made some amazing friends in Slytherin, Blaise prominent among them. They'd stood by him through everything over the last four years. He remembered with a grin how appalled they'd been at first when they found out he didn't know any magic whatsoever. They'd quickly remedied that, beginning, not surprisingly, with hexes. He'd quickly become the most advanced of all of them, finally mastering the Unforgivables in time for the Third Task of the Triwizard Tournament. And his friends had been there all the way – Pansy said it was the proudest moment of her life when Harry finally managed the Killing Curse, and Harry knew she was only half joking. It was one of the proudest of his, too. It certainly made clearing the Slytherin dorm of the spiders and various other unnameable creepy crawlies that haunted it a lot easier.
He hated the thought that now everything would change. What had it been to Theo and Pansy, to help Harry rescue the Philosopher's Stone, when they hadn't known their parents' former master was behind it all? What had it been to Draco, to help Harry into the Chamber of Secrets, when he didn't know his own father was behind the attacks? And what had it mattered when they'd all banded together to help him through the Triwizard Tournament, not knowing as they did now that he wasn't meant to survive and that their families certainly wanted him dead. He couldn't rely on their help anymore. He knew that, however much it hurt.
That was what made Blaise so special. He knew she'd always be there for him. He'd taken her to the Yule Ball, as a friend, of course, and she'd been what he'd most miss in the Second Task. He thought that, for once, Dumbledore had got it right. Over summer he missed her most out of all of his friends. Sometimes he wondered if he missed her a bit more than a friend would. Not that he'd tell anyone that. Lupin and Sirius were having enough fun joking about his well-publicised love life as it was.
"I don't know where he gets this reticence from," Sirius commented a little grouchily to Lupin. "Certainly not from James."
That was the kind of remark that tended to jar their relationship.
"Lily was never big on recounting romantic exploits either," Lupin reminded him. Sirius nodded.
"True, true," as if he couldn't quite understand it all the same.
"Being unusually modest today, Potter," Weasley remarked nastily from the corner.
Harry looked up.
"What's that meant to mean, Weasley?" he snarled.
"Well, with all the rumours around the school and everything… I mean, you're not usually so shy about "recounting romantic exploits"."
"At least I have some to recount," Harry replied sweetly. "I hear that Granger's quite the little minx. Not that you'd know."
And Harry had the satisfaction of knowing he'd hit right where it hurt most. Weasley's hand was tight around his wand, his face red with rage.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you, Weasley," Harry advised. "Your hexes are almost as pitiful as your attempts to get any girl to look at you. Even a know-it-all like Granger."
"At least Hermione's not a slut like that Parkinson! No surprises that she'd go for you. She'd be up for anything."
As Harry knew Pansy very well, in the carnal as well as the social sense, this was a rather low shot. While Harry didn't consider himself or any of his friends to be particularly promiscuous, he knew that they had acquired a certain reputation around the school, himself, Pansy and Draco most particularly. It didn't usually trouble him. On any one day there were so many rumours flying around about him that he didn't have time to bother about who he was supposed to have deflowered the previous night. Rumours far exceeded the facts and, as Harry was very reticent about the names and details of his bed mates, were rarely grounded in reality.
In truth, Harry was not particularly promiscuous, though perhaps he had had more sexual experience than many his age. He had neither the time nor the patience to find a proper girl or boy friend, particularly when he couldn't help feeling a certain tenderness towards Blaise, which tended to manifest itself in extreme protectiveness of her. This in turn had got him into a lot of trouble over the years, as Gryffindors quickly learnt that the soonest way to rile Harry Potter was to insult Blaise Zabini. But insulting Pansy was almost as easy a way to get him annoyed, as she was one of a small ring of interchangeable bed mates, as well as a good friend. And Harry Potter, who was cool enough to ignore any number of insults directed towards himself, would not tolerate the slightest disparaging comment about his friends. Particularly not when it was made by a clueless Weasley.
"Take that back, Weasley," Harry said softly, his voice surprisingly dark and threatening.
"I don't see why I should," the boy replied stalwartly, though he looked a little nervous. Harry didn't blame him. He'd long perfected his Evil Glare.
"You wouldn't understand the first thing about Pansy. Hardly surprising," Harry reflected, "since you understand so little about anything else."
It was true that Pansy was, even by Harry's standards, fairly open. But he didn't find it surprising. A loveless childhood, a father who made no effort to hide his many infidelities and a marriage all but signed and paid for from birth. Sure, Pansy and Draco got on fine, but no one made the mistake of thinking they were in love. At least Draco would be more forgiving than Pansy's own father, and tolerate discrete infidelities on her side as well as his. But it was a messy situation for everyone concerned, and it made Harry glad, indeed, that he wasn't a rich Pureblood.
He couldn't help but be secretly glad that Blaise's family weren't quite rich or ancient enough to involve themselves in such medieval practices.
"Piss off, Potter," Weasley glared.
"What an imaginative retort, Weasley. You must have spent hours puzzling over that one."
"Again, you amaze me with your dazzling wit. It's good to know the light side produces such eloquent and intelligent compatriots."
Harry swore he heard Sirius snort a little. Even sober Lupin looked like he was holding back a smile. Weasley, however, simply looked enraged.
"I can't think what you'd know about the light side, Potter. What are you doing here, anyway? Spying for You-Know-Who?"
Harry's wand sparked. The temperature in the room dropped about ten degrees. Everyone watching knew Ron Weasley had gone too far, and even his own brothers tried to discretely edge away.
"I am not a Death Eater, Weasley," Harry said simply, his voice a powerful threat in and of itself. "I wouldn't expect you to understand the complex web of loyalties that must necessarily characterise a war against the greatest Dark Lord of all time," Harry's voice dripped of disdain, "but I think it's about time you got one thing straight: Slytherin doesn't mean Death Eater."
Weasley fell silent, his face looking cowed but not convinced. But there was no time for further argument. Into the room strode two more red heads, and Harry perked up a little. The youngest Weasley could, at least on occasion, be coaxed into having some fun, Harry Potter-style.
"What's going on here?" Mrs Weasley demanded into the tense silence. Harry spoke up before anyone else could.
"Your son was just implying that I'm a miniature Dark Lord in the making, served by whores and those nasty, nasty Slytherins," Harry said, his voice a harsh mockery that made Weasley blush and even his elder brothers smile faintly. "I was simply correcting that implication."
"Oh, Ronald!" Mrs Weasley remonstrated.
"Of course, what could Ron have been thinking?" Ginevra Weasley teased. "Everyone knows you're all sunshine and butterflies, Potter."
Harry grinned appreciatively.
"Of course. Innocent and pure as snow."
Ginevra snorted and Harry's grin widened as he stood up.
"But where are my manners?" he declared, self-mockingly. He bent down and brought her hand to his mouth. "Ginevra Weasley. A delight as always."
Harry felt her stiffen and knew she was moments from yanking her hand away. The truce between them was tense at best, though Harry found the girl actually likeable, which was more than he could say for her brothers. Saving her from the Chamber of Secrets had done something towards building an amicable, if not genuinely warm, relationship between them, but Harry knew she hated it when he used her, as he was now, to annoy her brothers.
Still, it was working. Harry didn't have to be able to see Ronald Weasley to know he was fuming, and out of the corner of his eye he saw one of the twins tighten his hold on his wand.
"Charmed, I'm sure," was Ginny's cool response, as she dropped a mocking curtsey.
"Ginny, what are you doing!" Ron exclaimed. "Let go of my sister's hand, Potter."
Harry obligingly did so.
"What am I going to do? Steal her virtue with my fingers?" he stopped, then began to smirk. "Actually…"
"Don't," Ginny warned him sternly.
"Wouldn't dream of saying a word," was Harry's mock-innocent reply.
Ron Weasley growled.
"I hope you appreciate your brothers, Miss Weasley. Not every girl has someone so desperately eager to defend their honour."
Ginny grinned conspiratorially. "Unfortunately, most girls don't dream of their Knight in Shining Armour being a relation," she sighed.
"Incestuous, eh? Kinky," Harry said approvingly.
Ginny just rolled her eyes. Mrs Weasley hmmphed and strode quickly out of the room, muttering about delinquent teens. Harry chuckled to himself, knowing that however irascible he was, or however often he taunted her sons, the woman would always have a soft spot in her heart for the boy who saved her daughter's life.
"So, you here all summer too?" Harry asked Ginny casually.
"Looks like we're housemates," she replied glibly.
"Excuse me if I don't jump with glee," Harry muttered.
"We're not over the moon about it either, you know," one of the Weasley twins muttered.
"Really? I'd have thought you'd be delighted. Any time you spend away from that hovel you call a home must be a real treat."
Harry was delighted at the cracking of fists that greeted this comment. He looked disparagingly around at the mouldy walls and moth-eaten furniture of this particular room.
"This must be real luxury for you, mustn't it?" He could barely restrain a grin.
"Now, now, Harry," Sirius cautioned, but it was too late. His one former red-headed ally turned on him.
"Why are you so nasty?" she demanded, stamping her foot to emphasise her point.
Harry shrugged in a manner he knew to be particularly infuriating.
"Just comes naturally, I guess," he replied glibly, not at all disconcerted at being in a room surrounded by enemies and Gryffindors.
That answer was not, apparently, particularly satisfactory. Ginevra Weasley's bad temper seemed, if anything, to increase. She was beginning to look quite becomingly flushed.
"Why are you so cruel? Why do you deliberately try to hurt our feelings every time you speak?"
"My, my, we are getting antsy, aren't we?" Harry replied. "Though I will say that angry flush rather suits you. I'm getting rather turned on. How do you feel about angry sex?"
Out of the corner of his eye, Harry noticed Weasley clench his fists. Harry grinned.
"Leave it, Ron," Ginny directed in a low furious tone.
"Yeah," Harry agreed, "Sorry, Ron. But a threesome with you and your sister would be a bit too weird, even for me. I'm just not attracted to you that way."
"God, you're impossible!" Ginny snapped.
"Impossible to refuse, I've been told," Harry said, with what he hoped was a winning smile. "So, how about it?"
She looked at him witheringly.
"Huh. I guess not, then," Harry answered. "Gryffindors can be such prudes. Well, at least I can keep this image to wank to."
"Fuck you, Potter," she snapped.
"I'd love it if you would," was Harry's glib response.
Harry wouldn't have been at all surprised if Ginny had slapped him. He knew any of his Slytherin friends would have for going half as far, and they knew him and were used to his rather nasty, dry sense of humour. Ginny, however, did not take a step towards him. Instead, she threw her hands up into the hair in a gesture of dismay.
"I give up! I give up trying to understand you, Harry Potter!"
"So you think about me, do you? You are interested, then?" he pressed her.
She let out a muffled shriek of anger.
"NO! I just…I don't get it. You're so awful to us and almost any other Gryffindor, but I know it was you who stopped the other Slytherins from teasing Neville."
That stopped Harry mid-smirk.
"I don't know what you're talking about," he replied stiffly.
"You certainly do! You released him from the Leg Locker curse when Malfoy was being such a bully in your First Year. He told us it was you! But you're so nasty that no one knows whether to believe him or not! It's like a legend in Gryffindor!"
"He was in my way," he tried to explain. "I didn't want the useless lump blocking the library doors."
"That's not quite how he tells it," Ginny smirked triumphantly. "He says you even showed him how to block basic jinxes so Malfoy couldn't catch him by surprise again."
"Longbottom's delusional," Harry said shortly, now looking almost as uncomfortable as he felt.
"Yeah, well, how about what you did for Hermione then?"
"I've never done anything for that Mudblood," he replied roughly.
Gasps ran around the room and Harry wondered if he'd gone a bit too far. Even Sirius was clenching his fists, as if he longed to tighten his fingers around his wand and teach his godson what was what.
"That's what you say now," Ginny said, still with that infuriating smirk, "but rumour has it that you banned any of the Slytherins from using that word in your hearing."
"Rumour greatly outstrips reality. Didn't I just say it myself?"
"That's what I don't understand!"
"There's nothing to understand, Weasley. I'm a nasty, prejudiced Slytherin. Don't trouble your innocent little Gryffindor head about me."
"Padma Patil said you refused to enter the Slytherin common room when the password was Pureblood. She said you slept outside on the floor of the dungeons for three nights before Snape finally forced the prefects to change it."
"Padma Patil is an ignorant gossip," Harry replied tightly.
"She's a friend of yours," Ginny observed.
"Well, obviously," Harry replied. "She's just the kind of person I like."
"What? You mean unprincipled? Bitchy? Backstabbing?"
"'Easy' is actually the word I was thinking of, but the others apply equally well."
"You are such a chauvinistic, ignorant…"
"Yes, yes and yes. Are we done now?" Harry prompted. She exhaled furiously.
"I just don't get it!" She was back to her old argument. Harry was getting rather sick of it. "You won't allow the Slytherins to tease Neville, but you're awful to him yourself. You stick up for Muggle-borns to your own house, but then call them Mudbloods to us. You've joined SPEW, but have no qualms in sending up Hermione and spending your holidays with rich Pureblood families who abuse their House Elves no end."
"I'm a person of many contradictions," Harry said. Once again he attempted a winning smile, but he knew it came out more like an evil smirk. Ginevra Weasley's eyes took on a calculating look that Harry found far more disconcerting than the usual Gryffindor glares.
"You don't know how weird it is to see a Gryffindor thinking before opening their mouth," Harry commented.
"Funny," a Weasley – Charlie, maybe? – replied. "Most people would think it a case of colossal stupidity to say something like that in a roomful of Gryffindors."
Harry shrugged. "I know what I'm saying is annoying you. That's why I say it."
Harry instantly knew he'd said the wrong thing. Ginevra Weasley's eyes lit up like a light bulb.
"That's just it!" Ginny shrieked. "That's why you do it! It's just to annoy us, isn't it?"
"Well, of course, I mean…" Harry began, not quite sure why Ginny Weasley was stating the utter obvious.
"You don't really believe any of it, do you?"
"Any of what?" Harry demanded cautiously.
"When you tease us about being poor…you don't really care, do you? You just like that it gets a rise out of us."
Harry looked at her blankly. Well, "of course."
"And the same thing with saying 'Mudblood' – you won't let any of the Slytherins get away with discriminating against Muggle-borns, but you pretend to do it yourself just to annoy people you don't like?"
"Right again. That's two out of two – must be a record for a Weasley," Harry said snarkily.
"And with Neville, you just…what about Neville?" she finished hopelessly.
Harry's eyes darkened. "Longbottom's got enough troubles without Slytherins adding to them," he said roughly. "As long as they think I'm making his life hell, no one else will bother him too much."
"You're being nice!" Ginny accused him.
Harry glared at her.
"I may be many things, but I am not nice!" he replied, sounding as insulted as he felt.
"It's nothing to be ashamed of," Ginevra said, sounding infuriatingly smug.
"Yeah, because it's nothing! I'm not nice! You're being stupid!"
"Really? Let's think about it. You rescued Hermione from a mountain troll in your First Year…"
"…well I needed some decent competition in class, didn't I?"
"You saved my life at the end of your Second Year…"
"…I wouldn't have let anyone die down in that Chamber. Though if I'd known you were going to be such an annoyance…"
"…you spared Peter Pettigrew in your Third…"
"…yeah, and wasn't that a big mistake..."
"…and then you offered to share the Triwizard Cup with Ced-"
"Don't talk about that." Harry's voice was hard, threatening and Ginny quailed. If Harry had made them nervous before, they were verging on terrified now.
He turned away. There was a long, awkward silence. Ginny gulped.
"Get one thing straight, Weasley," Harry said eventually, his voice low and cold, his back still facing the occupants of the room as he himself looked out the door into the hall. "I am not nice. Not even to my friends, not to my enemies and certainly not to Gryffindors. But just because I'm a Slytherin doesn't mean I don't believe in fair play…except in Quidditch, of course," he turned around, a smile quirking on his lips.
"You want to know why I protect Longbottom, Granger and the rest of the Muggle Borns? I'm not doing it for them at all. I'm doing it for my fellow Slytherins," he registered the looks of surprise on his viewer's faces and grinned ruefully. "Not the answer you expected, is it? But the thing is, I've always known it would come to this eventually. I've always known he'd come back. And I've always known that eventually all my friends would have to make a choice. I didn't know if it would be in Second Year or when we were 92, but I knew it would happen. I just wanted to make sure that they had a choice to make. I wanted them to know it was possible to get past prejudices. And I didn't want them to make so many enemies that they had no way of joining the light side."
There was a long silence.
"But," Harry said sadly, "I guess I got it wrong. See, in the end it doesn't matter how Slytherins behave. We mock you, and somehow that's far worse than when you mock us. We curse you and somehow that's ten times more reprehensible than when you lot throw us a punch. I've done everything I could to ensure that my friends have got a future away from the Death Eaters, but in the end it hasn't been enough to get over a few prejudiced Gryffindor attitudes.'
'You don't understand. Not any of you. You try to, but you can't possibly know what it's like to face the kind of choice every Slytherin has to. Even I've been offered the choice to go Dark, and I'm the bloody Boy Who Lived! When you're ostracised by the rest of the school, you fight back the only way you can. And if that leads to the Junior Death Eaters, well then, you lot just blame us all the more. So fuck you. Fuck all of you. In Slytherin we're fucked enough already."
The Weasleys stared. Ginny wouldn't meet his eye. Sirius, however, shot him an approving look that was quite infuriating.
"Now, if you'll all excuse me, I'm off to bed. I've got to write a few letters to my dear 'Death Eater chums'. Otherwise they'll worry about me. Yes, some of us Slytherins actually do have souls. And then I think I'll go to bed and think about how heavenly you look when you're annoyed," he said with a wink towards Ginny.
She blushed furiously and Harry smirked. He surveyed the dumbfounded faces staring at him, and chuckled to himself, none too kindly. With Weasley males to annoy and one Weasley female to try and coax into bed, maybe this summer wouldn't be so bad after all.