Disclaimer: I don't own anything you recognise; you know the drill by now
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AN: Here is the sequel to what is easily my most popular story so far; 'Harry Potter/Granger and the Philosopher's Stone'. Now, combining the original version with a bit more detective work and a hell of a lot more Lockhart-bashing, I give you…
Harry Potter/Granger and the Chamber of Secrets
As Harry studied the album currently lying in his lap, he couldn't stop himself from smiling slightly at the pictures spread out before him. Images or not, they really did help him feel… connected… to his parents in a way that he'd never really felt before.
OK, so admittedly the fact that they could move about did help him feel a bit closer to the subjects than he might have felt otherwise, but he wasn't going to let minor details like that get in the way of things.
Ever since he'd come back from Hogwarts, after he and Hermione had completed their homework, there hadn't been much more for them to do other than go over their work and study the album he now held in his hands, Alan and Jane having grounded them for their idiocy in going up against a powerful Dark Wizard and into terrible danger on their own (Something Harry had definitely not pictured himself being grounded for in all his life). Admittedly, they understood that their children hadn't had much choice at the time- Jane was writing a stern letter of complaint to Professor McGonagall for not believing the three of them when they'd told her about their theory- but the punishment nevertheless remained. They'd been allowed to attend to their homework, of course- both their parents were all in favour of them continuing their education- but with both of them working on it together, it had been finished in a matter of days, leaving them with little else to do but wait for the punishment to be lifted.
Initially, the album had been something Harry had kept pretty much to himself, only taking it out to look at it when he was alone- he wasn't entirely sure how the Grangers would have reacted to having pictures of his biological parents around the house- but when Jane had discovered him looking at it late one night, she'd insisted that the rest of the family get a chance to look at them as well, and they'd spent some time over the subsequent days just scanning through the pages of the album, reflecting on the lives of the people who had brought Harry into the world. Hermione was still a little 'jealous' of the album, in a way- no matter how old she became, there was always going to be a part of her that felt a bit jealous of Harry's biological family, even if she knew that he cared for her as a sister regardless- but, that aside, she had come to enjoy looking at the album just as much as Harry did.
Probably because we don't have much else to remind us of Hogwarts… Harry mused to himself, that rather depressing thought putting a dampner on his mood.
Ever since he and Hermione had returned home, they hadn't had so much as a single letter from any of their friends at school. At first, they'd been able to attribute this to the fact that their initial letter-writing privileges had been restricted after the Voldemort thing anyway- Hedwig had been allowed out of her cage to exercise, but neither had been allowed to write anything to give to her- but even after that restriction had been lifted, they'd never managed to get a reply; Hedwig left the house with the letters, came back with nothing, and they never received so much as a single reply back with her…
The fact that there wasn't even any sign of a letter today was starting to worry Harry, particularly since it was his birthday. He knew that the Grangers and all his adopted cousins would remember it, of course- they were all coming over for a party later in the day- but still, he wouldn't have minded some renewed acknowledgement from the wizarding world that he wasn't just some figure to be put up on a pedestal and worshipped…
Harry was so occupied with his train of thought that he barely even registered it when his door opened and Hermione walked in, looking inquiringly at him as she noted the album in his hands.
"Everything OK?" she asked him anxiously, as she walked over to sit beside him on the bed, looking at the album before them; on occasion, Harry had been known to start crying while studying the pictures, and wanted to make sure that this wasn't going to be another such incident.
"Yeah… I'm fine," Harry replied, nodding slightly as he looked back at Hermione. "Just… puzzled about the lack of contact we've had recently, I guess."
"Yeah… I know what you mean…" Hermione sighed as she looked back at Harry. "I mean, I get that some people might find it a bit difficult to treat you like a normal person, but me? I'm nothing special; why should somebody find it hard to talk to me about stuff…?"
"Uh, do you mean there's nothing special about you apart from the fact that you're the brainiest witch in our year?" Harry retorted, smiling slightly at Hermione as he spoke. "You managed to get some of the highest grades in the year, and you don't think that makes you even a bit intimidating to people? Y'know, you can be as smart as you like, but if it weren't for me I think you'd have absolutely no clue about people…"
"Oh, knock it off, you!" Hermione retorted, smiling slightly as she punched him lightly in the arm, before the brief amusement of the moment failed and she stood up once again. "C'mon, we'd better get changed; there's still a lot to do before we're ready for the guests to show up."
"True," Harry said, smiling slightly as he put the album off to one side. "But, hey, at least it's better than what I would have had with the Dursleys; I'd be lucky if they even remembered it was my birthday, quite frankly."
"Well, as it is, you don't have to put up with them, so we'll forget about that, OK?" Hermione stated grimly before she smiled once again and walked out the door. "Just get dressed and get down for breakfast, OK? You know how long it takes for you to prepare the cake properly…"
Harry rolled his eyes slightly.
"You know as well as I do that you were the reason I had that problem back then!" he retorted, as he glared teasingly at his sister. "The next time you want to prank me, could you not do it by swapping the baking powder for something?"
"Hey; you're the one who couldn't take the joke!" Hermione retorted teasingly. "You need to relax a bit at times, you know?"
"There's a fine line between a joke and something that's almost cruel, 'Mione; you nearly went over the line with that little trick!" Harry countered back. "Admit it!"
"Never," Hermione stated simply. "It was a joke that went out of hand; that's all. If your cake fell apart as a result… well, that's just a happy little accident."
"OK, that's it!" Harry yelled, as he jumped up, grabbed Hermione, and began to tickle her mercilessly.
"H-h-hey!" Hermione yelled, laughing uncontrollably as she pushed back against her brother. "Kn-kn-knock it off, OK!"
For a moment, Harry was tempted to continue- it had been a while since they'd had an opportunity to just muck about like this, really- but then he glanced at his watch and sighed slightly in frustration; given how long it sometimes took for them to get ready for the parties, they should probably get moving soon.
"Y'know, as fun as this is, we really don't quite have the time for it right now," he said, smiling nonchalantly at Hermione as he released his hold on her and indicated the clock. "We should probably just get moving and get everything set up for later; we've got to get moving if we'll be ready for the others."
"Yeah… fair point," Hermione sighed, before she stood up and headed for the door. "I'll see if Mum and Dad are up; see you downstairs in a few minutes, OK?"
"Sure thing," Harry said, putting the album off to one side as he got up to begin getting dressed.
He'd worry about Ron's lack of communication later; right now, he had to prepare for his birthday party.
A few hours later, Harry and Hermione were sitting in the kitchen, once again playing their almost traditional game of Top Trumps with Natalie while the younger children watched a movie in another room and the parents ate their own evening meals in the front room. It wasn't exactly an ideal family moment, they all knew- mostly on these occasions the family should spend time all together rather than divided amongst various rooms-, but, the way Harry saw it, they'd all spent a great deal of time together for the most part of the day, and had just taken the opportunity now that the initial hubbub had died down to do their own 'thing' in their own 'groups'. They all loved each other, of course, but sometimes you just wanted to do your own thing rather than get mixed together with some people you could have trouble relating to when you had the 'alternative' option of spending time just with those you had more in common with.
Besides, given how much younger the rest of the children were than the three of them, Harry, Hermione and Natalie generally found it easier to relate to each other as opposed to their cousins and (In Natalie's case) siblings. They loved the others, true, but sometimes they just wanted to spend some time with people in their own age group discussing something that they knew the others would be interested in, rather than something they just might be interested in.
As well as all that… well, Harry and Hermione had to admit that, since discovering about Natalie's own magical potential, they were actively seeking every opportunity they could to figure out how Natalie might react to the news that she could do magic. So far they were just trying to determine how she'd react to the idea of having 'powers', for lack of a better term, and hadn't managed to get anything definite either way; Natalie seemed to think that it would be cool, but they just couldn't be sure how she'd react to the rest of their news.
Harry was rapidly coming to the simple conclusion that he sometimes hated his life.
Couldn't something in my life be simple for once? he reflected as he studied the cards in his hand. With the part of his mind that he was 'allowing' to consider the trivial details, he wished that it was his turn soon- he only had a couple of cards left, but he knew for a fact that Professor X's intelligence level was one of the highest ones in the deck- but the rest of him was inwardly cursing at how complicated his life seemed to be ever since he got his Hogwarts letter.
Oh, it was fun at the school, he wouldn't deny that, but he just wished everything could be a bit more straightforward than it had been since he'd arrived there…
"Penny for your thoughts, Harry?" Natalie asked, smiling slightly over at her cousin as she glanced up from her own cards. "I'd give more, but I spent most of my money on your gift."
"And it's appreciated, trust me," Harry said, smiling slightly back at her. He anticipated several hours of enjoyment out of the Sherlock Holmes/H.P. Lovecraft 'crossover' short story book she'd given him; Shadows over Baker Street looked like being a very interesting read. "It's just… stuff at school, you know."
"Ah," Natalie said, nodding slightly in understanding. "That arrogant git you mentioned who thinks he's better than everybody else being a pain, right?"
"Yeah, among other things," Hermione said, shrugging in a poor attempt at a nonchalant manner as she looked at her cousin; they'd told Natalie as much about Hogwarts as they could without mentioning anything specifically magic-related, which, naturally, had included Malfoy, who in their 'rewrite' of their school's history was the typical 'rich kid' who thought his money gave him the authority to boss everybody else around.
"Like what?" Natalie inquired, looking curiously at her cousin. "Does it have anything to do with that accident you had after your exams? I heard you got into a fight that left you out of it for a while, but Mum and Dad wouldn't tell me anything more-"
"I don't want to talk about it," Harry stated firmly; the Grangers may have felt obligated to tell their relatives about his coma, but as far as he was concerned, he was content to allow them to come up with their own theories about what had actually caused the 'accident'. "Now, are you going to play the next card, or are we going to sit here all night?"
"Geez, ask a civil question…" Natalie mused, as she reached up to the cards in her hand. She had just placed her next card down on the table- it was Doctor Strange, Harry noted with a slight smile; ever since learning that Natalie was a witch herself, he found it kind of amusing when she showed an interest in anything relating to magic- when there was a loud pop, and suddenly a small figure, no more than three feet high, with an oversized head and ears and spindly arms and legs, dressed in only a dirty pillow-case, appeared in the middle of the table, looking with wide eyes at Harry.
"Harry Potter…" the creature said, in an awed voice, apparently unconcerned about the presence of a confused Hermione and a shocked Natalie as it looked at him. "Such an honour it is…"
Harry blinked in surprise.
"Uh… you are?" he asked, crossing his fingers and praying that none of the adults would show up during this conversation; it was going to be hard enough just telling Natalie about the fact that she could do magic without working in any more explanations right now.
"Dobby, sir," the creature replied, bowing politely. "Dobby the house-elf."
"Ah," Harry said, exchanging a surprised glance with Hermione; in all their experience with the magical world, they certainly hadn't been expecting elves to look like this. "Uh… not to be rude or anything… but this isn't exactly the best time to have a house-elf in this room."
"Oh, of course sir; Dobby understands that," Dobby said earnestly. "It is just… it is… difficult, sir… Dobby wonders where to begin…"
"Uh… maybe you could… sit down?" Hermione said uncertainly, indicating the free chair opposite her on the table.
As soon as the words were out of her mouth, Hermione wondered if she'd made a mistake; the small creature's eyes suddenly filled with tears and he began bluddering like a terrified infant.
"S-sit down!" he wailed; Harry was only grateful that the rest of the visitors were far enough away from the room not to hear the current 'conversation', otherwise he'd have even more questions to deal with. "Never… never ever…!"
"Dobby, stop crying, will you?" Hermione hissed; they were just lucky that the creature's wails hadn't attracted any attention already, at the volume he was wailing at. "We didn't mean to offend you or anything-"
"Offend Dobby?" the creature said, looking incredulously at Hermione. "Dobby has never been asked to sit down by a witch or wizard… like an equal…"
Apparently, this was enough to break Natalie out of her stunned silence.
"Witch?!" she yelled, looking incredulously at Hermione before her gaze turned to Harry. "Wizard?! What the Hell have you guys been keeping from me?"
"OK, in our defence, we were planning on telling you soon-" Harry said, looking apologetically at his cousin, hoping that Dobby wouldn't mind being temporarily ignored right now.
"Oh, like when; when you had to?" Natalie protested, standing up to glare at Harry. "Y'know, I thought you guys trusted me with stuff like this, and you couldn't even be bothered to tell me-"
At that moment, Natalie waved one arm in frustration, and suddenly all the cards on the table were floating in mid-air, suspended about a foot off solid ground with no apparent regard being paid to the laws of physics.
As Natalie's eyes widened in shock at what she'd just done, Harry shrugged apologetically.
"That would be the reason why we didn't tell you straight away," he said, sheepishly. "We figured that, since you could do magic yourself, we should probably wait to tell you about it until you had to know… there's this whole 'Decree for the Restriction of Under-Age Wizardry' thing that prevents you from using magic outside of school, and we didn't want to tell you about it and then get you in trouble for trying to do magic on purpose…"
He shrugged once again as Natalie continued to stare in shock at the floating cards. "Stuff like this is OK- accidental magic tends to happen a lot when you're young and feeling some strong emotion or another- but you can't do anything deliberate at the moment, and we didn't want to leave you feeling frustrated because you knew what you could do if you had the chance and couldn't do right now."
"Oh," Natalie said in a small voice, as she looked uncertainly at her hand before looking inquiringly up at Harry. "Uh… when do I get to have a wand?"
"If the school operates on the same system for you as it did for us- and we have no reason to think it won't- you can get one in a couple of years from now when you get your letter to come to Hogwarts in the first place," Hermione put in, looking sympathetically at her younger cousin. "Just… don't tell your parents about all this just yet, OK? We'll tell you what we can beforehand, but we'd rather not tell them anything until we've got something to prove we're not mad."
(OK, so Harry could legitimately show the MacDonalds the invisibility cloak or the photo album as proof of magic without attracting any unwanted attention from the Ministry of Magic, but, at the moment, he wasn't quite ready to share the few mementos he had of his biological parents with everybody he knew at the moment.)
Realising that Dobby was still standing in the middle of the table, silently waiting for them to finish talking, Harry cursed mentally as he turned back to the strange new arrival; he really shouldn't have allowed himself to get distracted like that.
"Uh… sorry about ignoring you like that; we just had to-" he began, before Dobby started blubbering again.
"Harry Potter is too good to Dobby! Harry Potter shows concern about-" Dobby began, before Hermione clapped a hand over his mouth; his voice was starting to reach an uncomfortably high volume, and if it got too loud they'd probably be discovered.
"Will you stop wailing about everything?" Hermione asked, looking anxiously at the house-elf. "We've got other people in here, you know, and not all of them know that we're magical! We'd rather not have to answer too many questions, if that's OK with you?"
"Of… of course, Miss…" Dobby began, before pausing and looking uncertainly at Hermione. "Who is you again, Miss?"
"Oh… Hermione Granger, Harry's adopted sister," Hermione replied, looking uncertainly at the elf; she didn't want him to start blubbering about how great she was as well.
"Of course!" Dobby said, suddenly smiling as though he'd just remembered something he'd heard a while back. "You is the Know-It-All Witch!"
"Uh… not the most flattering description, but… yeah, that's me," Hermione replied, looking in confusion at the elf; Dobby had sounded almost overly respectful to Harry earlier, but right now he'd almost seemed to be insulting her without fully realising it.
"OK, if you're here to tell me anything, I've just got a few simple ground-rules," Harry interjected, looking critically at the house-elf before him. "Firstly, you're to keep all noise to a minimum; secondly, you don't call Hermione that again- I'd rather you referred to her as 'Hermione Granger' rather than that- and where did you hear her referred to as that anyway?"
"Dobby apologises for the insult, Hermione Granger," the elf said, looking briefly at Hermione before returning his attention to Harry. "And Dobby heard Hermione Granger described as that by his… his…"
Before Dobby could finish speaking, his eyes suddenly widened in horror, as though his ears had just processed what his mouth was saying, resulting in him dashing over to the wall behind Natalie and proceeded to bash his head against it, yelling out "Bad Dobby! Bad Dobby!"
"Oh for crying out- stop that!" Natalie yelled, grabbing the small creature by his tattered pillowcase and yanking him back. "Rule number three while you're here is simple; don't beat yourself up like that!"
"And why did you do that anyway?" Hermione inquired, looking in confusion at the small figure before her.
"Dobby had to punish himself, miss," Dobby explained; Harry noted that his eyes had gone slightly cross-eyed. "Dobby almost spoke ill of his family, miss… it is clear that Dobby has insulted you by referring to you as such, Miss…"
"Your family?" Harry asked.
"The family Dobby serves, sir… " Dobby explained, looking pathetically at the children before him.
"Sorry; what's all this about your family?" Natalie inquired; Harry had to admit, given that magic was a totally new concept to her, she seemed to be coping with Dobby's presence rather well.
"They are the wizard family Dobby serves, Miss… Dobby is a house-elf, bound to serve one house and one family forever… if they ever knew Dobby was here…"
For a moment, the small creature almost seemed to shudder at the thought of what would happen to him if his presence was discovered, but then he regained control and continued speaking. "But Dobby had to come…. Dobby has to protect Harry Potter… to warn him that Harry Potter must not go back to Hogwarts this year."
Harry blinked in surprise.
"Excuse me?" he said, looking in confusion at Dobby. "You've come all this way to tell me to stay away from Hogwarts? Why?"
"There is a plot, sir," Dobby explained; Harry noticed that the small creature kept on anxiously glancing around as though he was terrified that somebody would overhear him. "A plot to make most terrible things happen at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry… but Harry Potter must not put himself in peril! He is too great, too good-"
"Sorry to interrupt, but Harry was in danger at school last year too- in fact, he ended up in a coma as a result of it- and he came out fine," Hermione pointed out as she looked critically at the house-elf. "Look, Dobby, we appreciate your concern for my brother, but… look, do you actually know what makes a 'great wizard' great?"
"Uh…" Dobby muttered, looking uncertainly at Harry for a moment before he spoke, his voice lacking some of the earnest eagerness it had possessed earlier, "Harry Potter is brave, powerful, wise, and much too nice to a poor house-elf?"
"Actually, I tend to think of a great wizard being someone who does great things," Harry stated, as he looked grimly at the small figure before him. He hated trying to use his 'reputation' like this, but, even as he spoke, he knew that he was only saying the truth.
If something dangerous was going to happen at Hogwarts, he was going to try and stop it, no matter how dangerous it was.
Besides… after learning the truth about his biological parents, even if he'd been suffering from a significant lack of contact with his school friends so far, he really wanted to learn more about the world they'd spent their lives in.
"Look, Dobby," he continued, as he crouched down to look the small creature in the eyes, trying to sound more confident than he felt, "I appreciate your concern for me, but if I'm going to be a great wizard, I need to have the opportunity to stop bad stuff happening, OK?"
"Uh… yeah… what he said," Natalie said, nodding slightly bemusedly as she looked at the small creature; she was evidently burning with curiosity about why Harry was a 'Great Wizard' in the first place, but she at least understood that now wasn't the time to ask about that.
For a moment, there was silence in the room as Harry, Hermione and Natalie looked anxiously at the elf, wondering if he would still tell Harry that he couldn't go to Hogwarts, but, finally, Dobby nodded.
"Very well, Harry Potter; Dobby shall not stop you going to Hogwarts," he said, as he looked at the young wizard. "Just… promise Dobby that you shall be careful."
Harry chuckled slightly.
"When am I not careful?" he asked casually as he looked at his 'sister' and cousin. Hermione briefly opened her mouth to reply, but stopped herself in time; it wouldn't help their current problem if she recalled some of the times when Harry hadn't been careful…
"Dobby must go now, or Dobby's family will know," Dobby said, smiling slightly at Harry. "Dobby knows Harry Potter will become the greatest wizard ever!"
With that, the small creature clicked his fingers and vanished.
"Huh," Harry said, raising his eyebrow as he looked at the sight before him. "That was weird."
"Yeah…" Natalie said uncertainly, before she turned to look critically at Harry. "By the way, as long as we're here, do you mind telling me why that elf wanted to warn you in particular?"
"Ah," Harry said, awkwardly rubbing the back of his neck. "Well, that is a rather unusual story…"