Disclaimer: Though I hope to have characters of my own to write about someday, this is NOT that day. So if you don't want to read of my writing about other people's characters, there's a back button somewhere on the screen. Use it.
This is AU in that Harry meets the twins in London, rather than his first Weasley meeting being Ron on the train. At this point, I think it would be a good idea to say that the divergences could get wild from here on, so some canon beliefs might just go the way of the dodo.
The next morning, the assembled students of Hogwarts were treated to the return of faces that had been missing for part of the year. Some of the reunions were kept quieter than others. The Hufflepuff table held smiles on their faces on the return of Finch-Fletchley, but didn't cheer raucously like the Gryffindors.
After everyone settled, the Headmaster stood. "With the return of our fellows, I would like to thank all of our students for their patience and hard work tending the Mandrakes all year. Ten points to all four Houses. The diligent nocturnal observers and minders will earn five points apiece for their efforts."
Professor Dumbledore continued, "Understandably, the amount of work our two newly returned students will need to carry out to catch up would prevent proper scoring of their year-end tests. I suggest that the informal study group is a fine method to catch up for next year. Any number of students in the group would be willing, I'm sure, to assist you. Should either of you be willing to take the tests at the beginning of next term, please drop a message off with me. Otherwise we will consider the grades as passing."
A brief pause, and the man nodded to the room in general and waved a hand, indicating they should commence eating.
Roughly halfway through his oatmeal, Harry felt someone standing behind his left shoulder. A quick glance around him showed that it was not a Slytherin, as most of them were raising eyebrows. The other members of the Quidditch team, while not glaring, weren't exactly providing a friendly atmosphere, which gave the Seeker the feeling it was a Gryffindor. Hoping it wasn't Granger trying to apologize again, he turned.
"Ah, M-mister Potter," Colin Creevey stuttered, with a shy smile, "I want to thank you for helping Neville with the Mandrakes while you could during the year, and for taking care of the snake- basilisk, wasn't it?"
Nodding, Harry swallowed his mouthful of food before speaking. "Was that all?"
"No," Creevey's face split into a grin, shy though it was, "I wanted to ask if you knew of anyone in your study group who could help me. I'm so far behind, Percy and Oliver can't really do much, so I was hoping someone could work with me- or, or several someones if that works better."
Blinking, the slightly older boy thought for a moment, "What times do you think you'll have free?"
The smile on the camera-happy face was almost enough to blind a person, and Harry thought briefly that it was no wonder Creevey liked cameras. They flashed just as brightly. The musing thoughts were interrupted by a sheet of paper thrust in his face, gently.
"Oh, sorry, but that's my course schedule," the First Year was still smiling, "I'm not entirely sure how much catching up we'll be able to do considering we'll have the first week of next term, but I'm willing to work."
Smirking, Flint snatched at the schedule and glanced at it, "That's all we can ask, Creevey. Looks like your open times coincide with mine today. My strengths are Charms and Astronomy, so I'll work with you on that. Did they already give you the coursework?"
The First Year's eyes went wide for a second. Then he reached into his bag again and pulled a sheaf of papers out to dig through. After a few seconds of searching he pulled two sets out and handed them over.
"Ah," Flint smirked as he looked through the pages, "We'll have you through those in no time, unless these are your worst subjects?"
Shaking his head, Creevey quickly pointed out, "No, my worst subjects are History and Transfiguration."
"Good news is, I know how to work Muggle post," Landale's face held a similar expression, "So I should be able to get you through your other subjects."
"Thankyou!" The budding photographer was so giddy that he made to dash off, leaving his assignments and schedule behind, but for Bletchley's hand holding him back.
"Don't forget this paperwork," the older boy grumbled, "You might be able to get a start on it if you've got it with you."
"Oh!" nodding, Creevey gathered the papers and put them back into his bag, and dashed off.
"That went rather well, to be honest," Warrington mumbled.
"Potter, your crusade to show the rest of the school what we're really like might actually get to start working," Montague chuckled.
"Hm. I'll believe it when they quit staring at us like we've got tattoos already." Flint muttered, though Harry rather got the feeling he wasn't supposed to have heard.
Standing, Harry decided it was time to head to class. He'd have left the table but for another approaching him. This time it was the newly recovered Hufflepuff petrifaction victim. A sheepish look covered his face in a low flush, though he kept casting mild glares at his table. Finch-Fletchley came to a stop in front of the Slytherin Seeker, and paused.
Taking a deep breath, the Hufflepuff began, "I'm sorry I ever believed you could have been the Heir of Slytherin, and I want to thank you for taking care of the creature before it killed anyone. If you-"
Harry interrupted the other boy, "If you're going to apologize, please mean it. But really, you don't have to, because its not like you were doing anything different. Nearly everyone thought I was the person behind it all."
"I really do mean it when I say I'm sorry! I should have known better! After all, you have never done anything like what the older students say Slytherins like to do to the other Houses. In fact, you seem to have gotten them to stop being so snide-"
Harry sighed and interrupted the other boy again, "This conversation isn't going to go anywhere."
With that, he dodged around Finch-Fletchley, and headed to his first class of the morning. He thought it rather ironic that the two Muggle-born boys could have such different reactions to the situation. One was genuinely grateful for something Harry had little to do with except as in clearing up a problem, and the other was obviously only apologizing because he'd been told to. He asked himself why were the majority of the people in the Wizarding world so determined to hate or be disgusted by Slytherins but couldn't come up with an answer outside of the Pureblood beliefs being misunderstood. Seeing as he wasn't completely sure he understood them, Harry could only guess, but his musings were cut short when class began.
This late in the week, Harry only had one test to take during the morning schedule. He sat in his Transfiguration class, and waited. After McGonagall set the questions in front of them, admonishing them to keep their eyes on their own papers, she set them to work. She would call a name, she warned, and said student was to turn their test over, and come up to her desk, where she would give them the practical portion of the exam. They would then return to their desk and finish the written portion.
Harry was so absorbed in his test that he almost missed when his name was called. Cheeks warmer than usual, he flipped the parchment over and moved to sit in front of the Gryffindor Head of House.
"First, Mister Potter," McGonagall reached over and passed him a note, "From the Headmaster, you are to read it after class, and only then. Next," she removed a small stone from a box and set it on the desk. "Transfigure this into a wood carving of a robin."
A little bit of work, and some skimming through the book of animals that McGonagall kept up there for this test left Harry standing across from the woman with a small block of wood roughly hewn into the form of a red-breasted robin. She picked it up and gently tapped it onto the desk top, and nodded. The sound was wood hitting wood, not rock.
"Now Transfigure it back," she nodded, and then nodded again when Harry had returned the robin to a rock. She replaced the rock, and then pulled out a teapot, "This should be a set of cups and saucers with the same pattern. Four pieces at minimum, but if you can get four of each, you will get extra credit."
Gingerly, the boy picked up the porcelain object and studied it. He turned it around a couple of times, until he thought he'd learned all the bits of the pattern, and then set it back down, just as gently. A moment or two later, he was pleasantly surprised by the three saucers with matching cups sitting in front of him, oddly enough, all holding tea.
Chuckling, McGonagall said "It is not necessary to try to feed me tea, Mister Potter, but I suppose it is only to be expected. You are, after all, a growing boy, and I'm sure are quite hungry at this point. Transfigure them back, if you would, and please do not lose the tea."
Relaxing only after it was over, he scrabbled back to his station and finished scribbling out his test answers. Upon finishing, he turned his test over and set the questions pages upon it, and took a deep breath.
When the class ended, he picked up the paper and headed out of the room. While keeping an eye out for obstacles, he read it. 'It has been decided that formal custody of your person should be handed over to one Kane Alen. He will be arriving today after supper to introduce himself to you. It is his hope, that at this time, you two will also be able to discuss how this summer will flow for you both. His parents were, while not exactly friends of your parents, at the least allies. To ensure your safety, Headmaster Dumbledore will be present, as will your Head of House. Professor Snape will escort you to the Headmaster's office.' A knot formed in Harry's stomach. He'd already heard a little of the man, or at least of his family, but wasn't sure what to expect. Frankly, he wondered if the man would explain clans better, or if he'd be as content to keep Harry in the dark as the Dursleys.
Lunch rolled around, and Finch-Fletchely had evidently been coached to try again, because he was standing by Harry's usual seat at the benches. With a sigh, Harry stopped nearby and waited.
"Potter, the way I tried to apologize this morning came out wrong," the Hufflepuff started. "I'll start this time by saying I really am sorry I thought you were the Heir. Everything I've read about Slytherin says his Heir would have had control of the creature, and for you to have been in the wrong places at the wrong times, well. Being that I'm acquainted with the movies that use red herrings to keep people from knowing who really committed crimes, I should have known better than to jump to conclusions. Even if it was strange to see you talking to the snake."
Only vaguely knowing of the movies Finch-Fletchley referenced, Harry hesitated. The Dursleys certainly wouldn't have allowed him to watch, but he'd had to read a few of the 'classics' in school, and there had been some Sherlock Holmes stories in there, so he did know what a red herring was. Finally he nodded, "Okay. I'll take that one."
Sighing in relief, the other boy added, "And the other bit, well. I didn't say it very well, but we hear all kinds of stories about the pranks Slytherins would pull, and the cheating they did in Quidditch, but since you've been here…"
"They're humoring me, you should know," Harry's cynicism caused more than a few winces in the older students, but he didn't see them.
Finch-Fletchley did, and his eyes widened, "People hate Slytherins and you've been trying to get that to stop, but even you're almost burnt out, aren't you?"
"Live through this last year in my shoes and you'd see why," Harry nodded at the table, "Mind if I sit? I do have a class after this, so I need to eat."
"Oh! Sorry," the other Second Year mumbled and if Harry had looked back up, he'd have seen a look of determination cross his face.
"Potter," Malfoy was unusually hesitant, "What did you mean by they're 'humoring' you?"
"People can't change overnight," Harry sighed, "I know that. I've not been able to figure out quite why you all have been so willing to lay off the other Houses, going entirely to the defensive, like an armadillo, but I do know it's not in your nature."
"How do you know that?" Parkinson snapped, "Maybe we want to make peace and see you as a figurehead to do so? Perhaps we realize with you behind us, or in front of us, the rest of the world might actually begin to believe it? Could there possibly be a chance that while our traits are like that of a snake, we might also be willing to not bite?"
Blushing, Harry realized he'd made the others angry, "Sorry."
Flint snorted, "We know that, Potter. You're just boiling over. Hopefully this summer will be better for you."
"Yeah," Harry sighed again, and then wrinkled his nose, "Is it too much to hope for a quiet year next year?"
A snort nearby told him what everyone else thought.
As much as he wished his next class would both fly by and crawl past, Harry was only granted half his wish. He was half tempted to try walking slowly to counter the speed with which his last Charms class of the year had flown. Sighing to himself, he gave up that idea for a bad one, and headed to his Common Room. Where he met some of the older students apparently chatting about their Defense tests.
Sitting nearby, Harry unabashedly eavesdropped on the details of a Fourth Year Defense exam. Some of the spells he'd heard of before, thanks to last year, and some of the study sessions he'd been through this year. Tyler definitely taught to a different tune, as most of the spells were shield and counter-oriented. Quirrell's spells had all been purely defensive hexes. He'd even taken the lessons of the Weasley brothers into account, though it didn't seem like there was much information from Lockhart.
As the voices droned, the Seeker nodded off, though he was unaware of this until Flint leaned over him and said, "Wake up."
A yip, jump and Flint narrowly dodging a flung out hand left nearly everyone in the room chuckling. Harry even thought it was funny, though he took a few extra breaths to return his heart rate to normal.
Supper was unlike lunch or breakfast, as no one approached the Slytherin table that wasn't going to sit at it. Recent experiences had taught Harry to be wary, so he kept looking around. After the sixth time he did so, Malfoy snapped, "Potter we'd warn you if anyone was coming, so stop it."
"Why? You never have before," Harry mumbled into his juice.
"We have too," Zabini snickered, "It's not our fault if you don't read silence as a warning."
"You're all so quiet anyway, I can't tell have the time when you aren't talking," Harry looked up.
"I have to ask, Potter," Flint's voice seemed sharp, and it drew the Second Years' gazes like a magnet, "Are you trying to push us away?"
Blinking, Harry thought about what might have brought the question to the surface. He realized that the last few days he'd been rather brusque and downright rude. Sighing, he rubbed the bridge of his nose beneath his glasses, "No. I'm sorry. I'm just-"
"Finch-Fletchley was right," Montague spoke up, "You are about to burn out."
"Sorry," Harry sighed, "I should-"
"Not another word, Potter," Parkinson snapped, "You're going to listen to us."
Blinking, Harry's eyes flew to the usually calm girl, and stared.
"Good. Now that I have your attention," she looked around, and then continued, "I don't much care about anyone else's view, but with what your home life is like, I can see why being subjected to more of it has you on the edge. With that in mind, I can only say that you shouldn't lash out at us. We might decide that even with you in our ranks, that we like the way things were."
Wincing, Harry opened his mouth, only to be silenced by Bulstrode.
"I can say that I like the fact that the Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs are actually looking at us as people now, rather than extensions of some disease," the larger girl pointed out, "And it seems to be something that spans all years of both Houses, and they're starting to look at all of our years too."
"If you give up, so will they," Landale added from her side of the table, "It's more or less a losing battle then."
"Why do I have to be the mascot for this?" Harry muttered.
"That's what you get for starting it," Malfoy smirked, "But I'll tell you, my father is incensed that you're doing this. At least, I think it's because it's you, rather than me."
"And you don't care?" Harry looked askance at his roommate.
"I've been raised to behave in the manner for which we are hated," the blond sighed, "So there's not enough for me to make a change with."
Parkinson decided to continue her thread of thought, "What you started last year, left scars in their view of us, planted seeds of the ability to see us differently. The fact that you weathered through this year, and kept behaving in much the same way as before widened the cracks and may have nurtured the seeds into small plants. Yes, you have a responsibility to keep up the behavior, but at the same time-"
"Forgive my interruption," an older voice sent all of the students at that end of the table into jumping fits. Tyler's face carried humor, though his mouth stayed fairly flat, "Couldn't help but hear your topic as I walked to fetch Mister Potter for his meeting with the Headmaster. It's not his responsibility to keep up the behavior. It's just his job to be himself. At this point, if you all want the changes to happen, you have to help him. More actively than just standing beside him when things come at him. Some of you will have to be his shields, others will have to use their own voices, learn to stand on their own, and ask for their own shields. That's at least part of the reason it's not working very well. Not just the fact that you've got about a thousand years of miasma to work through."
The students looked at him, in varying degrees of shock, and Harry actually felt a weight removed from his shoulders. The Defense instructor had just said what Harry wanted to, and judging by the victorious look on Parkinson's face, it was what she had been about to say as well. The adult stepped back and motioned Harry to follow him.
Reaching the office, Tyler smirked and said, "I think the young lady was about to say what I said for her, so I made them hear it from an adult instead. Some of them might have argued her into a standstill otherwise."
"Sir?" Harry blinked and looked at the gargoyle.
"When I was at this school, someone else tried to do just what you've done, but no one helped him," Tyler shrugged, "He gave up after the first year, took to avoiding everyone, stayed in the library for all hours. I never heard what he did during summers, as he had no family to go to, but I know he's since gone into research in one of the departments in the ministry. He's still anti-social, enough that he makes Professor Snape seem positively friendly."
"Speaking of which," the Potions Master spoke from behind the two already in the hall, "Why did you bring him here? I was informed that it would be my task, only to find he'd already been fetched."
"I was walking past and heard them coaching him to continue trying to get people to believe better of Slytherins," shaking his head, the younger man continued, "I think they were about to tell him, 'thanks for the effort, don't quit, but we won't help you,' or something like that."
"Hm," Snape paused, "Three Musketeers." The gargoyle moved out of the way, and the three walked up the staircase in silence. At least until the Slytherin Head completed his thoughts and spoke up. "It seems to me, that we might want to ask your guardian if he'd be willing to introduce you to Ryan Tir."
The name jogged a memory, and it connected just as they reached Dumbledore's office. He resolved to think more on it later, after he'd been introduced to the man sitting in one of four chairs opposite the Headmaster's desk.
Both men stood, and Dumbledore waved a hand, "Good to see you've made it, would any of you like tea, perhaps, to soothe possible parched throats?"
When all four declined, and had found their chairs, the new face spoke up, "My name, even if you already know it, is Kane Alen. I'd welcome you to the clan, but Ministry bylaws preclude it being a clan when there's only one living individual. If I could get certain individuals to file the paperwork, there would be more than one, and I could reinstate the clan, but that's aside from the point. I learned a few weeks ago that your parents had signed custody of you to my parents. Incidentally, as they are deceased as well, we will have to settle with me taking care of you."
Dumbledore looked to the pale-haired man, and asked, "Does this mean you are reluctant?"
"I would like to be sure of his willingness to return with me to a rather remote area of the country," Mr. Alen leaned back into his chair, "After all, what good would it do to take him from the people who've been caring for him thus far if he doesn't want to leave?"
"You didn't tell him?" Harry's outburst surprised everyone in the room.
"Ah, Harry," Dumbledore sighed, "I thought it best for him to meet you, make a judgment of his own, first, before telling him about the Dursleys."
"What is it I'm ignorant of this time?" Kane grumbled.
A quiet noise caused Harry to sneak a peek at the Defense instructor. For one, he wasn't sure why the man was here, and for another he had no clue as to what was so humorous.
"The current individuals in charge of Mister Potter's well-being are Muggles who feel magic is the act of freaks, and that the child under their roof that they did not put there is no more than a burden," Snape's voice was low, and if Harry didn't know better, he'd say it had been hissed.
"Ah," Alen nodded, then looked at the Second Year, who found himself meeting dark eyes. They looked like they might have blue in them somewhere, but that thought just skimmed the surface of his mind, as he hoped the man wouldn't turn out like the Dursleys. He really didn't want to live with that again, but right now, he didn't see any alternatives. Professor Snape seemed to know something about Kane Alen, and so did Tyler. That thought made him relax a little. Then he blinked. The feeling he got as he met this man's eyes were like the times when he'd met the Headmaster's and the Potions Master's. Which made him blink again and turn his gaze away, trying to think what the three could have in common.
"If it weren't for the fact that I'm sure it's been done for his benefit," Kane groused, "I'd say you should watch out for issues concerning a certain mind magic. He's not only becoming conscious of it, but is going to begin actively researching it soon."
Now Harry knew he was being told something obliquely, even before Tyler's stifled snicker. Mind magic gave him a topic, though that might not help much if people were determined to keep him from finding out.
"Ah," Dumbledore quite obviously knew what the topic danced around was meant to be, and nodded. "In that case, you should be quite happy to learn, that barring circumstances where it is otherwise unavoidable, Mister Potter should not be in any danger of exposure to it any longer. Unless through expressed consent on your part, should you take him in."
"I wouldn't have come here if I weren't going to," the chuckle issued after that statement left Harry glancing at the man again, briefly. "He doesn't have any more testing for tomorrow, does he?"
Shaking his head hesitantly, Harry wondered why the man wanted to know.
"I'll sign the papers tonight, with Professor Snape, and Mr. Tyler as witnesses. Then I'll go with whomever we need to the Slytherin Common Room to wait as Mister Potter packs. It's a long trip, and I think it best to get over with as soon as possible," Kane Alen explained, "I do believe if we leave early tomorrow I'll still be able to get the paperwork turned in to all parties concerned before the weekend, and will have formal custody acknowledged by the Ministry by the start of next week."
"You cannot take him with you without the paperwork being filed," Dumbledore explained.
"Ah, but it is allowed as a provisional act," Alen smirked, "As long as a member of the faculty of this school is present on the grounds, it is still acceptable. I'm sure I could get even Professor McGonagall to help us if I asked. She seemed quite eager to see Mister Potter settled into a different home. Also seemed happy to give me a few projects to give him during the break."
Sighing and resting back in his chair, the Headmaster nodded, and as Kane Alen turned the signed paper over, he pulled a quill and signed with no more words spoken. They then directed Harry to sign, saying he was willing to at least attempt making this exchange of custody work, and left the other two adults to sign afterwards.
"Enjoy your summer, Mister Potter," Dumbledore called as the four younger males left the room. At the doorway, Tyler turned and said something that Harry didn't quite catch, bustled along as he was by Professor Snape and Mr. Alen.
By the time they reached the Common Room, the Defense instructor had caught up with the other three and Harry listened as the adults held a conversation, that was over his head on multiple fronts.
He did resolve, however to research both that mind magic mentioned in the meeting, and this Occu-something that the three were talking about as soon as he could get away with it.
Upon entering the Common Room, which fell silent, Snape looked around the room and then began giving instructions to all there.
"Mister Potter will be leaving in the morning, so if any of you have messages to deliver to him that absolutely cannot wait, do so now. He would also appreciate assistance in packing his belongings, I'm sure, so if any of you have favors to ask, this might be a good time to pay your half of the trade-off."
"Never would have guessed it would get so brazen," Alen mumbled, "When I was here, we suspected that Slytherins lived on barter, but to have it confirmed!"
"Potter," Flint stood from his chair, where he'd been working on homework, "Creevey wanted you to have this." He handed over a small book, filled with pictures, mixed between Muggle and Magic. Flipping it open, he saw classmates, with little notes jotted underneath their names. Turning pages, he realized that the notes were comments on subjects they could help with or needed help with, and then spotted the note in the back.
Reading it, Harry then looked up, grinning, "This is going to make things easier, so much easier!"
"What?" Flint tried to sneak a look at the book.
"If you didn't take the peek while you had it, you're certainly not seeing it now until next year," the younger boy teased.
"Go on, pack your things," Snape waved a hand towards the sleeping rooms.
"Sir, I've been packed all week, left out only the clothes needed for this week, and have been packing them into a side bag to be washed when I got- well, there." Harry grinned. He knew he was making people nervous with his sudden cheer, but he had somewhere to go that wasn't the Dursley's, and he'd gotten something that would make the study system work a lot easier, so he was rather happy, even bordering on ecstatic.
"You won't be getting any sleep tonight, will you, Potter?" Tyler chuckled.
"Probably not," the Potions Master sighed, "Pity you two can't leave earlier than stated."
"I'll settle down, I promise," Harry sheepishly grinned, and then sat down on one of the chairs in the room, pulling a text from his bag, "See, I'll just get started on the summer assignments, then, okay?"
"See you in the morning then, Mister Potter," Alen turned and chuckled as he left the room, with Tyler in tow, as his guide to the rarely used guest rooms of Hogwarts.
Even though Harry had promised to work on his summer break work, he never got a chance to put pencil, or quill, to paper. The others in the room abandoned their studying, even Seventh Years, to as who the stranger had been, and the Second Year Seeker was left to explain it to them. Finally, it came time to sleep, and Harry packed away his things in preparation for the trip in the morning.
"Quick preview of what I hope to get done in a week," Famous last words! I'm so sorry it took this long. Finals snuck up on me, and then I found myself unbelievably busy during the month break. Then I took this long to get back into the groove, so here's the last chapter of year two, of What if, the first section, and hopefully I haven't disappointed you all too much.
There will be a break between now and the next posting. Meanwhile I will change the name of this story in a week or so. It will change from "What if?" to "What if the world turned its head sideways." There is a continuation/sequel, which will span the remaining years, and hopefully won't break 100 chappies. (Really I don't want more than fifty, but I'll be realistic.) The 'sequel' will be "and squinted one eye?" Should it get too long, I might break it some more, in which case, I'll think up some continuation of the title. So far, I'm thinking the names will go something like "What if the world turned its head sideways, and squinted one eye, as they all raise their hand," but that's a rough guess. I won't post even one chapter of the next section until I'm at least three-quarters done according to the outline I want to write up. That way, I'm less likely to have a repeat of this. Though I hope to keep the weekly updating schedule I had before this- er, long bout of a hiccup, when I do get started again. Sorry again, thanks for your time, and hope you enjoyed.