Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by J.K. Rowling; various publishers including, but not limited to, Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books; and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
A/N: Shall we get this show on the road?
Raising Harry, Part Two
Book Three: La Vida Hogwarts
Year Two: Curioser and Curioser, as Alice Once Said
Chapter One: Hot and Cold
Upon returning home and subsequently telling the tale of Quirrell and the Stone, Harry was sentenced to three weeks' worth of boredom. No friends were allowed over, no phone or floo calls, no flying or horseback riding. He wasn't even allowed to read during that time, except what was needed for his summer homework. On the upside, he did get all his homework done, as that was about the only thing he was allowed to do, other than chores. He wondered if he even managed to beat Hermione in sheer length of their Potions' essay… He was pretty sure it didn't need to be three feet long, nor have referenced quotes or a bibliography… But hey, he was bored.
The only respite from the seemingly never-ending drudge of tedium and monotony during those first three weeks of summer break – aside from his 4H and Scout meetings – came on June twenty-eighth. Though he had to stay behind with Remus, Sirius, and Cyrus, the former Marauders were a bit more lenient than his parents. They spent the day telling Harry stories of when he was a baby, living with James and Lily, and watching movies on Harry's television. The next day, Harry's little sister, Livia Anne was brought home. Once more, A.J. won the betting pool, though she had to split it with Remus, who had also laid his money on the twenty-eighth of June. Dave had given up asking about just how A.J. knew and shook his head, handing the winnings out.
Midway through the month of July, Harry managed to secure the last two badges he needed to obtain the rank of First-Class Scout. The first one he tried for and received was for bird-watching, the second was for ropes, tying knots and whatnot. About three days after being awarded that level, Harry suddenly realized that, though she had promised to owl him, there hadn't been a single letter from Hermione all summer. He wondered if he had said or done something to make the witch mad at him. A.J. came up with the solution, though. "Why don't you write to her muggle address? Maybe she's havin' trouble findin' an owl, an' I know you. You probably didn't give her your address, did you?"
Harry chuckled, "Nope… Didn't think she'd need it. Guess I really ought to write her, doncha think?"
"Well… duh. But you can do that later," A.J. flipped her long ponytail back over her shoulder. "Did you decide where you wanted to have your birthday party this year?"
Harry shrugged, "Dunno… We went to Adventureland last year, but I wouldn't mind goin' back again this year."
A.J. grimaced, "I think I can do without throwing up on your dad again, thanks. What about the lake?"
Harry shook his head, "I don't think so. I was going to invite the kids from school – hell, most of my friends from around here don't talk to me all that much anymore."
A.J. got a funny look, "So, the Weasleys, then?" she asked a little too nonchalantly.
Harry quirked an eyebrow and peered at her over his glasses, "Yeah… Neville, Dean, Seamus, and Hermione, too, if their folks all agree."
"What about goin' to the Beach, Ottumwa?"
A.J. nodded, "Yeah. What's the use in havin' a summer birthday if you don't take advantage of it?" A.J.'s birthday was in mid-January, and had complained in the past of getting mittens, coats, and ice-skates for presents.
"I've never been there, what's it like?"
"Well… It's pretty fun. They've got a wave-pool, two twisty waterslides, and one that's really steep and fast. They've also got this tunnel-slide that runs in and out of the building where the indoor pool is. The inside pool is just a normal swimming pool, but it's got three diving boards; a low one, a medium-high one, and one that's really high."
Harry snickered at the thought of his acrophobic friend voluntarily throwing herself off of a high-dive. "Sounds like it could be fun. Ain't there a really good Chinese-food place in Ottumwa, too?"
A.J. nodded, "Yeah, it's the… Golden somethin'-or-other. Mom an' I always end up eatin' there when she goes to the mall."
"So… Chinese and the water-park?" Harry asked.
A.J. grinned, "Sounds like fun. Can't wait to see everyone try an' use chopsticks." Harry laughed in agreement.
During the planning for Harry's birthday party, Harry discovered that he and Neville had the same birthday. When Harry learned this, he told his mom, who shortly became rather close friends with Neville's gran, Augusta Longbottom. The elderly witch seemed rather shocked that Neville had made any friends at school, and Harry had to wonder just what Neville had been telling her. In any case, the two arrived at an agreement, and it was okayed for Neville to join in the festivities. Dean was a little easier to get a hold of, for he'd given Harry his phone number before they left school, and his mom likewise agreed. Dumbledore took the initiative to craft portkeys for all the guests and made sure they arrived on time, attired appropriately for a day in the muggle world. Aurilia rented a bus for the day, as the guest-list had roughly twenty names on it, once she included the parents.
And so, on a bright and extremely hot afternoon – perfect, really, for wasting the day at a water-park – Harry and Neville, along with Ron, Percy, Fred, George, Dean, Seamus, Hermione, A.J., and Ron's little sister, Ginny, were all in swimming suits, sitting on several large innertubes in the wave-pool. Sirius and Remus were playing with Cyrus and Livia in the splash-pad area. Jim, Dave, and Jon Granger were trying to out-do each other on the high-dive inside. Albus, Molly, and Neville's gran were sitting at an umbrella-shaded table, drinking fruity slush, and discussing things of little importance. Cassiopeia, who was Seamus' mom, Aurilia, Julia, and Dean's mother, Sabrina, were taking pictures of everything when not chatting amongst themselves. Though Severus had been invited, the professor had replied that he would rather not attend. Albus had pointed out that Remus would be needing more Wolfsbane potion anyway, and Severus consented to join them for dinner. Hagrid sent his apologies with the headmaster, as he wouldn't be able to get away from his duties, and also sent a large package of treacle fudge.
Harry was currently clinging to the side of a float on which the Weasley twins were sitting. Percy was treading water nearby, and on the other side of the innertube was another upon which perched A.J., Hermione, and Ginny. "So, how long were you grounded?" Percy asked.
"Three of the longest weeks of my life," Harry replied.
"That's rough, mate," Fred and George replied.
"What about you guys?"
Percy chuckled, "Only a week. Mum had wanted to go for a full month for Ron and the twins, but we talked a bit. Managed to get her to back down."
"Yeah, Mum was so shocked to hear that…"
"…Perfect Prefect Percy…"
"…of all people…"
"…had voluntarily broke school rules…"
"…that she actually burned dinner!"
From where Harry was clinging to the float, he couldn't tell which twin was talking. Percy laughed again and joined Harry in holding on to the innertube. "You should have seen Dad's face. The last time Mum burned dinner was the day she found out she was having Ginny."
A.J., who had been unabashedly eavesdropping on Harry's conversation, broke out laughing. She laughed hard enough that she fell off the girls' innertube and came up sputtering and coughing. Percy dove under the twins' tube and swam over to her. "You all right?"
She nodded, "Yeah. I can just imagine, though…" She grinned at Percy. "You've got really pretty eyes, you know that?" Percy blushed bright red, as did A.J. They both ducked under the water and swam back to their respective floats.
Luckily, neither of the twins spotted the encounter, they'd been distracted by a question shouted from where Neville, Dean, Seamus, and Ron were floating on their own innertubes. When Percy rejoined Harry near the twins, Harry shook his head at him. "Ya know, A.J.'s my best friend."
"You hurt her, an' I'll make ya wish ya hadn't."
"I know," Percy smiled at Harry. "I won't, but I know."
Harry nodded, "Good to see we're on the same page."
The remainder of the afternoon eventually found everyone tired, slightly sunburned, and with red eyes from the chlorine in the water. Dinner was at the Golden Dragon, a Chinese buffet, and Severus met them there. Neville paled when he saw the potions master waiting near the door and tugged on Harry's arm. "Why's he here?"
Harry grinned, "'Cause I invited him, of course."
Harry shrugged, "He's really not all that bad if you talk to him, and he helped me out with a couple of things this year."
"Why do I think you don't mean potions?"
"'Cause it wasn't," Harry laughed. "Don't worry 'bout it, Nev. If he was gonna turn you into potions ingredients, he'd have done so at school – fewer witnesses that way."
The entire group of people took up the majority of the dining area. While everyone was getting seated, Severus handed a nondescript metal flagon to Remus. Harry made a mental note to ask what it contained when everyone else left, after they got home. The rest of dinner was highly amusing, to say the least. Aside from the Americans among them – and Remus and Sirius, as they'd had occasion to eat out with the Brewers before – not many of the guests had any idea what they were eating. Snape, though, not only knew what he was eating, he also could use chopsticks with a level of proficiency that startled Harry. Harry also noticed that though Sirius tended to stick with the deep-fried things like eggrolls and wontons, and Remus preferred the skewers of teriyaki chicken and fried rice, the potions professor had three bowls of egg-drop soup, followed by a large plate of lo-mein. Harry hadn't known one could eat the spaghetti-like noodles with chopsticks.
When everyone had eaten their fill – and after Molly had scolded Fred and George no fewer than ten times for 'dueling' – sword-style – with their chopsticks – the presents for Neville and Harry were passed out. Neville received numerous plant-related books and two magical houseplants. Harry got Neville one of them, a particular sub-species of Venus flytrap that was used in making antivenoms. Harry received several items of varying natures, including a couple of wizarding games he'd not heard of before – the boxes had been charmed to merely appear holographic to muggle eyes – and a Sneak-o-Scope from Ron.
As they were eating dessert, Harry heard Molly remark to Jim that she was glad that her husband couldn't come because of work. When Jim asked why that was, she merely gestured to the ice-cream machine and mentioned that Mr. Weasley had an obsession with muggle gadgetry and if he saw the soft-serve machine, he'd want to take it home with him. Jim snickered at the thought, and Harry, who was loading his plate with coconut macaroons, laughed, too.
Instead of going back to his own seat, next to Neville's, at the end of the long row of tables that had been pushed together, Harry paused at Professor Snape's seat. "Sir?"
"I never got a chance to say this earlier, but thanks for your help this year."
Severus sat his handle-less teacup and shook his head. "It was nothing, I assure you."
Harry scoffed good-naturedly. "Somehow, I doubt that."
"I would have done the same for any student who asked."
Though most observers would have missed it, Harry caught a little tick at the corner of Severus' eye. "Ye-es…" he ground out, obviously hating having to admit to it.
"Oh, and I wanted to apologize, too."
"For telling the Hat 'no' to Slytherin. I mean, it wasn't any fault of yours… Just wanted ya to know that," Harry gave the professor a small, lopsided grin and hurried back to his own chair. Severus merely stared after the boy. That was… Odd, he thought, returning his attention to his tea.
Sitting down, Harry captured Hermione's attention, "Hey, Hermione?"
"Hmm?" she asked around a mouthful of melon.
"How come y'all ain't written this summer?"
She shook her head and hurriedly swallowed. "I have! I wrote a couple of times, but you never replied. Do you have any idea how hard it is to send an owl when I don't own one?"
"No, I don't, but I ain't got any letters from you. Why don't I give ya my muggle address, then you can just mail them as normal. Or our phone number. If your folks won't let ya call 'cause it's expensive, just have the operator reverse the charges."
Hermione retrieved a small address book from her backpack, which, now that it was summer, was full of her pleasure-reading books and a couple of notebooks for notes on questions and topics she wanted to research in more detail when returning to school. "I wonder what happened to the owls that were supposed to deliver the letters?" she asked, handing the address book to Harry.
"Dunno. Mayhap it's too far for a normal post owl to fly. Oh, well. This should fix the problem, in any rate." Harry scribbled down his address and phone number and handed the book back to its owner.
"At least I know you're not angry with me. I have to admit that I was a little afraid of that," Hermione said, putting the book away.
"Why'd ya think that?" Harry smirked, "Is there somethin' y'all wanna tell me?"
Hermione laughed a little. "No… But I do hope those letters show up eventually… I'll have to make sure to tell the postman in Diagon Alley when we go for my school supplies next month."
Eventually, everyone – even Ron – was full and ready to go home. The Gryffindor boys promised to continue practicing their music, and, with luck, they'd be able to get together to practice once or twice before returning to Hogwarts. Harry carried a box full of his gifts up to his room and sat it down in the middle of the floor. He started to put things away, but stopped when a squeaky voice said, "E-excuse me, Mister Harry Potter, sir?"
Harry whirled around and saw an odd creature standing under his bed, next to his toybox. His hand hovered in the vicinity of his wand, just in case. "What… Who are you?"
"Dobby, sir, Dobby the house elf." The creature seemed to be wearing an old pillowcase for clothes and had large ears and enormous eyes.
"What can I do for ya?" Harry asked, still unsure if he would need his wand or not.
"Dobby has come to tell you, sir… To warn you…" The voice trailed off and the little elf started tugging on an ear. "It is difficult, sir, Dobby wonders where to begin."
Figuring that the little creature wasn't likely to be a threat, Harry sat at his desk. "Sit down," he said, pointing to the reading chair at the foot of his bed. "It's usually best to start at the beginnin', or so I been told on numerous occasions."
The elf burst into tears. "S-sit down!" he wailed. "Never… never ever…"
Harry was more than a little confused. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to offend you or anythin' like that."
"Offend Dobby!" the elf blubbered, "Dobby has never been asked to sit down by a wizard – like an equal…"
Harry sighed and wondered vaguely where his mom was. Sirius and Remus had gone down to the basement to play pool, and Jim and Dave were outside, tending the horses and the other animals. "Dobby?"
"Yes, Mister Harry Potter, sir?" The elf was still crying huge tears and hiccupping every now and again.
"Relax. I ain't gonna hurt ya, ya know. Why don't you take a breath and tell me what you came to tell me?"
It took the elf several minutes, but he eventually calmed down and sat on the footstool to Harry's dark blue reading chair. Harry thought he looked like a large, ugly doll. He was mildly disturbed at the look of adoration the elf had fixed on him. "Such an honor it is to finally meet the great Harry Potter, sir…"
Harry interrupted the elf. "Dobby, I realize that you probably don't know this, but I was adopted a long time ago. My last name is 'Brewer' now, not 'Potter.' Please use it."
Dobby's eyes filled with tears again, and he reached up and began twisting his ears, "Bad Dobby! Bad Dobby! Dobby had heard, but didn't use the right name – "
Harry wondered if there was something wrong with the elf or if all elves acted so strangely. "Dobby?"
Dobby paused in his self-punishment, "Yes, Mister Harry Brewer, sir?"
"Please don't hurt yourself. Just say what you came to say." Damnit, Harry thought as the elf began crying again. What did I say this time? "Dobby! What are you doing?" The elf had resumed twisting its ears.
Harry's stern question startled the elf, stopping its tears. "Dobby is sorry. Dobby had to punish himself. Dobby knew Mister Harry Potter's new name is Harry Brewer, but forgot to use it."
Harry closed his eyes, Gaia, if you're listening, please make this creature come to the point some time tonight. I'm really tired and would like to get to sleep sometime before dawn… He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "That's okay, Dobby. A lot of people seem to have trouble rememberin' my name. You still haven't said why you're in my room, though."
"Dobby is sorry. Dobby is just excited to be here, Mister Harry Brewer, sir. Dobby has long heard of sir's greatness and long wanted to meet sir."
It took a moment for Harry to puzzle out the meaning behind that sentence. "Dunno 'bout that 'greatness' junk. I ain't great. I'm just me."
"But sir has defeated the Dark Lord!" the elf insisted. "Only a great wizard could have done so."
"If you insist," Harry replied, hoping that if he played along, the elf would eventually finish whatever he came for and leave.
Dobby nodded and blinked his large eyes. "Dobby does insist, sir. Mister Harry Potter, sir, is much too humble. Dobby heard tell that Master Harry Potter, sir, met He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named for the second time only weeks ago. That sir had escaped yet again."
Harry shrugged, sighing internally over the elf's persistence in using 'Potter.' "Yeah, I met Voldemort again… What's that to do with anythin'?"
At the sound of the Dark Lord's name, Dobby's eyes grew even larger, and he clamped his hands over his ears. "Speak not the name! Not the name, sir!"
Harry winced at the elf's high-pitched shriek. "All right, all right. I won't say his name. Is You-Know-Who the reason you're here?"
Dobby blinked slowly and shook his head. "Not He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, sir, not him. Dobby heard of a plot, sir, a plot to make most terrible things happen at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry this year." Dobby's voice had lowered in pitch until the elf was whispering. He had also begun trembling. "Dobby has known this for months, sir, that is why Dobby has come. Harry Brewer must stay where he is safe. He is too good, too great to lose."
"Huh?" Harry was beginning to get a headache from the circular speech of the elf. "What do you mean, 'stay where he is safe?'"
"If Harry Brewer goes back to Hogwarts this fall, he will be in mortal danger." Dobby leveled a pleading expression at Harry.
"Not go back to Hogwarts?" Harry's forehead wrinkled in thought. "You don't want me to go back to school this fall because someone's planning on doing something horrible?"
Dobby nodded, "Yes, sir! Dobby has come to protect Harry Brewer. Sir is valiant and bold, and has braved so many dangers already… He is too important to put himself in peril. Dobby came to warn sir, even if he does have to iron his ears later."
Harry rubbed a hand across his face. Gaia… Is he serious? Harry wasn't quite sure if he meant the plot or the little creature ironing his ears. "Thanks for the warning, Dobby, but can I ask you a couple of questions?" Dobby nodded. Harry gave his brain a mental kick to jump-start it. "First off, why would you hafta iron your ears? That sounds like it'd be a mite painful."
Dobby nodded again. "Punishments are supposed to be painful, Mister Harry Brewer, sir. That's why they's punishments."
"For coming to warn you," Dobby's clarification was anything but.
"Why would you have to punish yourself for comin' to warn me?"
"Because Dobby's family would require it of him, should they learn of what he has done."
"Your family?" This was getting more and more confusing.
"The wizard family Dobby serves, sir. They would not want Dobby telling sir this information, and for telling, Dobby would be punished if they found out, so Dobby will punish himself when he returns to his family."
"So, I take it they don't know you're here?"
Dobby shook his head. "No, sir. That is also why Dobby will be having to punish himself, sir."
"Won't they know you did somethin' if you're ironin' your ears?"
"No, Dobby is always having to punish himself for something. They lets Dobby get on with it and even sometimes reminds Dobby to do extra punishments."
"Sounds awful," Harry shivered a little at the mental images that the elf's explanation brought to mind. "Can't you leave? Escape?"
Dobby shook his head, "No, sir. Dobby is being a house elf, bound to serve one family forever, unless they is setting Dobby free, and they won't be setting him free. So, Dobby will be serving his family until he dies."
Harry grimaced at the thought of a lifetime of slavery. "Can't anyone help?"
The elf shrugged, "If so, then Dobby is not knowing how."
"Back to that plot…" Harry sighed. "Just what is it? Who's plannin' it? And why?"
Dobby made a funny choking noise and sprang to his feet. He started banging his head frantically against the metal pole that supported a corner of Harry's bed. Harry reached over and placed his hand between the elf and the bed frame. "Dobby?"
"I know that when a person is visitin' someone else's house, it's considered good form to follow the rules of that house while there. Do house elves have to follow the rules of whatever home they're in, even if it doesn't belong to their family?"
"Yes, Mister Harry Brewer, sir."
Harry let out a relieved sigh. "Good. In that case, the main rule about being in my room is that you're not allowed to punish yourself. If a punishment is needed, I'll let you know. The second rule about being in my room is that if you can't answer a question, just say so, either by tellin' me that you don't know the answer, or that your family has forbidden you from answerin' that specific question."
Dobby looked at Harry, his eyes filling with tears again. He hurried back to his seat on the foot stool, and Harry could have sworn he heard the elf muttering about Harry's supposed greatness once more. "Dobby is sorry, sir. Dobby thanks Mister Harry Brewer, sir, for letting him know the rules in his room."
"You're welcome, Dobby. Now, those questions… What is being planned?"
Dobby frowned and Harry was pretty sure he was forcing himself to remain seated. "Dobby cannot tell, sir. Dobby is sorry, but his family has forbidden him to say the details."
"If I guess, can you say if I'm right?"
Dobby's eyes widened and he nodded vigorously. "Yes, sir!"
"Hmm… Does it have anything to do with Vol – You-Know-Who?"
Dobby shook his head.
"Not him… What about the Death Eaters? Is it to do with them?"
This is going to take forever, Harry thought. Hmm… I wonder…? "Dobby? Have you ever heard of a game called 'Hot and Cold?'"
Dobby shook his head, "No, sir."
"Well, it's a game that kids play. Someone will take somethin' and hide it, then the other players will start lookin' for it. The person who hid it will give them hints on where the item is by sayin' either 'warm,' 'warmer,' or 'hot' if they're gettin' close to the item. If they're gettin' further away, the person who hid it will say either 'cold,' 'colder,' or 'icy.' Do you understand?"
The elf nodded, "Yes, Mister Harry Brewer, sir."
"Do you think we could do somethin' like that for my guesses? If I'm really wrong, say 'icy.' If I'm sort-of right, say 'warm.' Like that."
"Dobby thinks so."
Harry grinned and rubbed his hands together. "All right! Let me get a pad of paper and a pen, then we can get down to business." Balancing a notebook on his knee, he quickly scribbled out a list of questions. "So… goin' back to the 'Hot and Cold' rules, does this plot have anythin' to do with You-Know-Who?"
Dobby wrinkled his forehead. "Warm and cold."
Harry quirked an eyebrow. "Is You-Know-Who the one who came up with this plot?"
"Okay…" Harry made a note. "Did the Death Eaters come up with the plot?"
"Was it a single Death Eater?"
Harry smiled, this was much easier than trying to get the little elf to unwillingly divulge the information. "Can you tell me who?"
Dobby shook his head, "No, sir. Dobby is forbidden."
A sudden thought struck Harry. "Who can forbid you from divulgin' information, Dobby? Is it only your family that can do so?"
Dobby nodded, "Yes, Harry Brewer, sir."
"Are you allowed to tell me who your family is?"
"Yes, sir. Dobby is bound to the Malfoys."
Harry growled low in his throat. It was a pretty good guess that the who behind this supposed plot was a Malfoy. "Was the Death Eater who came up with this plot a member of your family?"
"Hot," Dobby replied. Harry could see that the elf was extraordinarily relieved to be passing along this information in a way in which he could neither be punished, nor be considered as betraying his family.
"So, the person who came up with this plot is a Death Eater in your family. Is it Lucius Malfoy?"
Harry nodded and noted that down. "Okay, now that I know who, I need to find out what. Does this plot have anythin' to do with classes?"
"Okay, not classes. What else is at Hogwarts?" Harry mused. "Does it have anythin' to do with Albus Dumbledore?"
Harry frowned, "Hmm… What about the teachers? Does it have anythin' to do with them?"
"What else… Hmm… Does it have anythin' to do with quidditch?"
"What's colder than icy?" Dobby asked.
Harry chuckled. "Nothin'. Don't worry about it. So… Not quidditch, the teachers, classes, or Dumbledore. So, this plot… Is it against the students?"
"Me and my friends?"
"Warmer and colder."
"Hmm… Me and specific friends?"
"Hmm… If I say one of my friends' names, will that help?"
Dobby shook his head, "Not really, sir. Dobby doesn't know who all the great Mister Harry Brewer has as friends."
"Okay… Lemme think a bit…" Harry sat back and stared at the ceiling for a solid five minutes, mind running in overdrive. Malfoy… Lucius is Draco's dad… Bought his way out of Azkaban after Voldemort disappeared… Draco's always on about being rich and pureblood… That's got to be it! "Is this plot against people who aren't pureblood?"
"Hot and cold, sir."
Harry wanted to scream in frustration. "How can that be both hot and cold?"
"Part of it is correct, Mister Harry Brewer, sir, but it's not complete."
Harry took a deep breath and counted to ten in all the languages in which he knew how. "Okay… So, Lucius Malfoy concocted some plot against the non-pureblood friends of mine at school… but that ain't all. What am I missin'?" Harry looked up at the elf. "If you wanted to tell me somethin' about your family, somethin' that might relate to this plot, but that can't directly be linked as a detail, can you?"
The elf nodded thoughtfully. "Yes, sir. Dobby can do so."
"Whatever you think is pertinent," Harry motioned for the elf to begin.
Dobby took a deep breath and began talking very fast. "Master Malfoy is childhood enemies with Arthur Weasley – they hates each other, sir. Master Malfoy collects Dark artifacts, sir, and keeps them in a secret chamber under his drawing room floor at the manor. Master Malfoy hates witches and wizards who aren't pureblood, it was why he became a Death Eater, to serve You-Know-Who. Master Malfoy keeps his memories in his diary. You-Know-Who is a parselmouth." The elf fell quiet and watched as Harry scribbled down everything he said.
Funny, how he put particular emphasis on certain words… Harry made sure to underline those words in his notes. While he was finishing up his notes, he looked up to meet the elf's gaze. "How long can you stay before you're missed?"
The elf closed his eyes in concentration. "No more than another day, Mister Harry Brewer, sir. Dobby is supposed to be taking messages to his master's friends. That can take days, and he still has to do so."
Harry nodded absentmindedly, using a fresh page of paper to write out his thoughts much in the same manner as when he figured out the mystery surrounding Pettigrew. "Can you be quiet for a while? I need to think on this…"
"Yes, sir," Dobby nodded and proceeded to sit completely still for over twenty minutes. Harry found it slightly unnerving, but ignored the elf in favor of his thoughts.
Finally, Harry leaned back in his chair. "Okay, I think I've figured a few things out. Let me say what I think, then let me know if I'm right." Dobby nodded. "Let's see… Lucius Malfoy is a Death Eater who is plottin' against me this year. It has somethin' to do with his pureblood bias. He's probably gonna use some sort of Dark object he has in his collection. This involves the Weasleys in some fashion, as well as a diary of memories, a hidden room at Hogwarts, an' also has somethin' to do with Vol- You-Know-Who bein' able to talk to snakes. Right?"
Dobby nodded excitedly, "Yes, sir!"
"Okay… Now, this Dark object… Is it a diary?"
"So the Dark object that Malfoy is gonna use in this plot is a diary?"
"Hot," the elf confirmed.
"Is it his diary?"
"Not his diary… Obviously, the diary is magical if it's a Dark object… Is the diary You-Know-Who's?"
"Hot," Dobby was practically beaming.
"Okay. Lucius Malfoy is goin' ta use his master's old diary – which is enchanted in some way, probably nasty – to 'make most terrible things happen' at school. How the hell can a book cause things like that?" Dobby didn't answer, as Harry was obviously not addressing him. Harry ran a hand through his hair. "Okay… I'll leave that for now. What about this hidden room at Hogwarts…? Just how does that link in? Hmm… Does the diary tell how to find this hidden room?"
"Dobby doesn't know, sir."
"And the Weasleys… Tell me, Dobby, do you know who your master is plannin' on gettin' to do his dirty work for him?"
"Yes, sir, but Dobby can't say who."
"I figured that much, Dobby. It has to be someone who's still at school, otherwise it wouldn't be a plot for things to happen at Hogwarts. So… it'll be either Percy, Fred, George, Ron, or their sister, Ginny. Is it Ron?"
"The twins, Fred and George?"
"Okay, so Malfoy will be targetin' Ginny for this plot. Makes sense, if it involves a diary. I don't know no guys that write in a diary…" Harry nodded and stood. "All right, Dobby. I think I know enough to figure out the rest on my own. Thanks for the information, by the way."
"Dobby is grateful that he could help Mister Harry Brewer, sir. But, will sir promise not to go back to Hogwarts? Sir's life is in danger!"
Harry snorted, "What else is new? I can't promise not to go back, Dobby. If what you say is really gonna happen, then I'll need to tell others at the school, so we can make sure no one gets hurt. Besides, most of my friends are gonna be goin' to Hogwarts, an' I wanna be with 'em."
"Friends that don't even write to Harry Brewer?" the elf asked innocently, though Harry thought he could see a sly glint in the creature's overlarge eyes.
"Hold up…" Harry's forehead furrowed. "I've talked to most of my friends… Hell, I talked to damn near ev'ry one of them today. The only one I ain't got a letter from is Hermione. Just what do you know about that?"
Dobby seemed to suddenly realize that he was, indeed, still talking to Harry Brewer – who would forever be Harry Potter in the elf's mind – and his greenish complexion turned an odd shade of blue. Harry wondered if that meant that the elf was blushing. "Harry Brewer, sir, mustn't be angry with Dobby. Dobby did it for the best – "
"Have you been stoppin' my letters from the owls?" Harry's voice was stern.
Dobby fidgeted on the stool before nodding slowly. "Yes, sir. Dobby has them here." He pulled a stack of envelopes out of the dirty pillowcase that he was wearing. Harry could see Hermione's neat script on most of them, one or two seemed to have Professor Snape's spiky writing, and even a scribble that looked as though it might be from Hagrid. "Harry Brewer mustn't be angry, sir… Dobby had hoped that if Harry Brewer had thought his friends had forgotten him he wouldn't want to return to school, sir."
Harry scowled at the elf. "Give me my letters, Dobby."
"Only if sir promises not to return to Hogwarts, sir."
Harry clenched his teeth together hard enough for his jaw to hurt a little. He made a grab for the letters, but Dobby bounced out of reach. Harry took a deep breath and made a conscious effort to relax. "Dobby?"
"You said that you consider me 'great.' Right?"
"Yes, Mister Harry Brewer, sir." The elf nodded exuberantly.
"Why do you think that?"
"Because sir is great! He defeated He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named twice!"
"And is You-Know-Who more or less powerful than Lucius Malfoy?"
The elf blinked, "More, sir."
"Do you think that, if I had to, I could defeat your master?"
"Last question, Dobby. Would a 'great' wizard allow their friends to go blindly into a dangerous situation?"
Dobby slowly sat back down, thinking. Finally he looked up at Harry, "No, sir. He wouldn't."
"Do you see now why I have to go back to school this fall? I need to warn my friends. I need to keep them safe." Harry's voice was no longer stern or angry, but soft and laced with pleading. He was trying to project confidence in his – Harry's – abilities at the little elf, but wasn't sure if empathy worked on the creatures.
Dobby looked back to the bundle of letters in his hand and slowly held them out to Harry. "Dobby is sorry, sir, for doubting sir's greatness. Dobby hopes that sir can forgive him."
Harry smiled softly and took the bundle from the elf, "Don't worry about it, Dobby. You meant well and no one got hurt. Thanks again."
The elf was crying again, albeit quietly this time. "Mister Harry Brewer, sir, is much too kind to a lowly house elf."
Harry shook his head, "Oh pshaw on that, Dobby. Tell you what, if you think of anythin' else that can help me figure this out, go ahead and find me. Or write to me – can you read an' write?" Dobby nodded. "Good. In return, I'll see what I c'n do about gettin' ya away from the Malfoys. Deal?" Harry offered the creature his hand.
Dobby accepted the hand tearfully. "Sir truly is great," he said shaking Harry's hand. When he released Harry's hand, the elf snapped his fingers and disappeared in a puff of smoke.
Harry flopped into his reading chair and began going through his mail. "If that ain't just about the weirdest damn thing that's ever happened to me, I'll eat my hat…"
A/N2: The Sirius/Harry scene should be posted to 'Bonus Features' sometime tomorrow.
A/N3: (September 2, 2007) Edited to fix the Scout error (apparently, 12 is too young to be an Eagle Scout. I think I'll blame this goof on the fact that both my beta and myself are girls and neither of us were ever involved in any sort of scout club).