Harry Potter and the Irish Choice
Summary: With all the crappy stuff Harry goes through at Hogwarts, the smart money would be on him transferring to a different, better school early in his career. Here's one way it might have happened. In homage to the many good stories on this topic, here's my short series.
Harry Potter's First Year
Harry Potter woke up from his first night sleeping at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, got dressed, and finally arrived at the Great Hall, after getting lost three times. He sat down and began to eat when an entire flock of post owls seemed to dive bomb him. Fully a quarter of all the owls that showed up that morning delivered mail to Harry Potter.
The young man didn't have the slightest idea what to do until Ron and Neville began helping him to offload the parcels and letters the birds carried.
He sipped at some disgustingly sweet pumpkin juice while he began digging through the letters. Most were gushing. One called him a disgusting half-blood monster. He ripped it up immediately. The packages contained a wide variety of sweets, knitted clothing (even a scarf in Gryffindor colors), books, and other possessions. Harry didn't have the first clue who any of the senders were or even really why they had made him such lavish gifts. Aside from his scar and his status as the Boy-Who-Lived.
Professor McGonagall descended from the Head Table and began handing out timetables. She stopped and tried to survey all the things Harry had received. It looked like she was considering scooping up all his mail and withholding it from him. Or at least that was the impression Harry got. Why would she want to do that?
"Professor, do you know why all these people are telling me about the other letters they've written me? These are the first I've ever received."
Her eye twitched a bit before she frowned and shook her head. "I've no idea, Mr. Potter. Here is your class list for the year."
She walked off and continued to hand out schedules. Harry pondered his situation before deciding to return the letters and packages to his dorm. McGonagall had obviously lied to him. Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia had done that often enough. Harry had plenty of experience watching them and their sweet Dudders lie to be an expert in lie detection. But why did she lie to him?
The next morning, Harry received no owls. Nor any the morning after that. As he walked out of the Great Hall confused at the difference between a flood of mail and packages and two days of nothing, he asked in his best ironic voice, "What does a guy have to do to get his mail around here?"
Suddenly a bizarre looking creature with massive ears and eyes – and green skin! – appeared in front of him.
"Oh, Master Harry, Mipsy was being hopeful you'd ask for her assistance."
After Harry 'eep'ed in shock and went through the drill confirming exactly what the green-skinned creature was, Harry followed Mipsy into the dungeons where she waved her arms and a doorway appeared.
"I was told I couldn't find you and be telling you about this room, Master Harry, but now that you've asked, I can." She had a positively gleeful expression on her face. "Mipsy has been tending your mail for ten years now…"
"Yes, Master Potter. Dumbly put up 'owl wards' on the bad house you stayed in. Only Hogwarts owls were being allowed in."
Harry walked into the room and saw several mountains of letters, ten mountains actually, one for each year Harry hadn't received any owl post.
"Criminy," Harry muttered.
"Let's be reading your letters, Master Harry?"
"Er, alright. Let's start with the most recent, I guess."
And they began sifting through them. After spending his Saturday morning tending to his correspondence (he only got through a bit more than two mountains), Harry was livid.
"Mipsy, do you know why I'm not getting mail after that first day again?"
"Dumbly put up 'owl wards' for you again, here at Hogwarts…"
Harry's jaw dropped before he got angry. Vernon-style angry, color changing and swearing included. "Interfering old bastard. Does he think he's my father? The man's a glorified school teacher..."
It took most of the weekend, but Harry and Mipsy opened everything and sorted it into piles. Crackpots – the largest pile – contained abusive letters or insane ramblings on various topics. Mipsy vanished them. Threat letters would be sent to the Ministry to investigate, at Mipsy's suggestion. "There being people who handle this sort of thing, Master Harry."
Polite letters – a sizeable mountain, but by far the smallest of the three main stacks – would each receive an acknowledgement and explanation that Harry had only now received his backlogged mail. He noted quite a few familiar names – Longbottom, Wood, Weasley, Patil, Bones, Abbott, and the like – and a number of unfamiliar ones such as Lupin, Diggle, Moody, Spinster, Cresswell, and Tonks. A fourth pile was the most interesting – invitations to schools other than Hogwarts. It held eleven potentially intriguing letters. Mipsy had clearly identified what they were for her 'young master.' Harry would look at them later.
He did have some homework to get finished before classes resumed tomorrow. And, worst of all, his first lesson with that scary-looking teacher, Scape or Screech or Snipe. Snape. Yes, his name was Snape.
Harry was still in shock when he walked out of his first Potions class. That horrifying teacher had indeed scapegoated everything blameworthy onto Harry – and screeched like a proverbial banshee for a good chunk of his lecture – and sniped about everything else. And, worst of all, he hadn't taught a single thing.
He had, however, mocked a student, poor Longbottom, when he injured himself. (Snape, of course, hadn't been paying attention and assisting his students.) Harry had only taken basic sciences at his primary school, but even he knew that the Chemistry teachers at Stonewall would get into trouble if their students got injured in class. They'd probably be fired even for acting like Snape had. Why was the magical world so different? Harry almost longed for Stonewall and the Dursleys in that moment.
That evening, Harry left dinner and went to his mail room. He'd promptly tucked away and forgotten the idea of ever going back to the Dursleys; he couldn't stand them. No, he thought of a different solution now. He was more interested in those other schools than he'd ever thought possible. He began to sort through the letters. Harry had thought Hogwarts was going to be an escape from the Dursleys, not just officially sanctioned 'more-of-the-same'. That Snape git was as bad, in his own virulent way, as Uncle Vernon. No thanks! And school teachers who hid his mail for ten years? Sounded like some of those crazies on the news he caught now and again when Vernon bellowed his anger.
Harry opened the first, very stiff letter and saw that it was from a school called Durmstrang located on the German/Czech border. The letter was quite detailed and it outlined a couple of issues Harry would have to consider. Frankly it sounded worse than Hogwarts, had a drafty castle in the middle of a frigid part of the world, taught in languages Harry didn't speak, was rather condescending about accepting him given Harry's 'mixed-blood heritage,' and sounded depressing. Harry pitched that letter aside
The next was from Beauxbatons Academy of Magic, but Harry wasn't even able to finish its four pages of explanations. The whole thing was written in a horribly feminine hand on powder blue paper, which made Harry think only of the invitations his Aunt Petunia sent out on a weekly basis to all the women she gossiped about behind their backs. No. He couldn't even read their invitation; how could he imagine spending time at a place that wrote such a beastly document?
The third, from the Salem Witches Institute, was an improvement. Four typewritten pages clearly explaining magic and what the Institute taught its students. Harry imagined for a brief moment how much fun he might have in America, but when he gave the document a second reading – especially the section explaining that he would be the first male student ever admitted – he realized that the whole invitation was based on his fame. As potentially nice as it would be to be surrounded by an all-female student body, Harry didn't want to be that different. Being at a place that sucked up to him because of his name and his scar would be maddening. Harry already hated being famous and he'd only known of his fame for a month or so.
Harry fell in love with the Franklin Academy of Magical Sciences based on its ten page mini-treatise. Its programs sounded incredible, its facilities sounded well maintained and adequate, its teachers intelligent and reasonable (unlike some Potions teachers Harry could name), but his face fell into despair when he read the final page. The school had one major problem. The Franklin Academy met for eight months a year, even less than Hogwarts. And that meant Harry would have to spend four months back with the Dursleys, rather than just two and a half. He sadly put that thick sheaf of paperwork in the "to-receive-polite-rejection-letter" pile.
He next picked up the two half-hearted pages from the Jefferson School for Young Witches and Wizards. They tried to attract his attention, but they admitted in the first paragraph that they were geared for wizards and witches in the seven to twelve age range, to prepare them for attending the Franklin Academy or the Salem Witches Institute. (The letter also noted that they'd first attempted to contact Harry at age seven, but had never received a reply. Yet they were still attempting another letter as he hit age eleven. That revelation made Harry especially angry as Harry could have been away from the Dursleys years ago had the stupid 'owl wards' not been in place.) Should Harry choose that as an option, he'd still have to find a new school for the following year.
The seven pages of the next letter from The Pharoah School of Sun Magic were perhaps the most tempting of them all so far. A far away country, sun drenched and awash in history, with programs that focused mainly on history, warding, and the wanded subjects.
Harry had loved studying about ancient Egypt in school. He'd read every book on Egypt in the school library one year. This magical school held its classes inside a pyramid; what could be better than that? He kept the letter on his lap as he picked up the next envelope.
This one was brief and to the point:
Scoil ar Draiocht Glas (School for Green Magic)
Orion Murphy-Black, Headmaster
Dear Mr. Potter,
I write to you to offer you a place at the Scoil ar Draioght Glas, a school for magic located in Glenweir Cove's Forest, Ireland. Given your likely non-magical upbringing, I would like to take a few moments to explain this world to you. You were born to a powerful witch (Lily Evans Potter) and wizard (James Potter); we believe that you will also be a powerful wizard. Our records show that your mother, who held dual British-Irish citizenship, elected to attend Hogwarts over the Scoil, but we would like to extend you the same offer we did to your mother many years ago.
As a potentially powerful magical user, you will need to quickly and adequately learn the entire realm of magical history, theory, and practice. However, having grown up in the non-magical world, we suspect you would miss the traditional subjects you are already familiar with. At the Scoil, we insist all preparatory students learn magical and non-magical subjects to give them the widest possible set of career and educational options once they graduate. Students traditionally begin at the Scoil at age eleven and leave at the age of seventeen or eighteen after completing a Mastery in a magical subject. Many of our students then elect to attend non-magical colleges and universities to further extend their educations.
I should clearly state that the Scoil was initially founded three hundred seven years ago to allow Irish Master's candidates a place to prepare to pass their examinations. Only in the last fifty years have we accepted any preparatory students at all: the current number of preparatory students is thirty-seven while we have three hundred eleven candidates for Masteries in various subjects.
The school meets year round and is for the highly self-motivated, given our particular educational model. All students are encouraged to pursue special research topics once they have completed their first three years of study. Be warned: the school operates at a very face pace, allows no one to operate "under the radar," to borrow a non-magical phrase, and will require considerable internal discipline from its successful students. Having known your mother, I suspect you share her considerable scholarly talents and her drive for success.
Should you wish to learn further about the Scoil, I await your owl. We here would love to have you enroll at our school, but only if you feel you can fully take advantage of the environment we have to offer.
Harry set the letter down. He was blown away. It wasn't fawning or otherwise ridiculous. It had been sent to him not solely because of his fame like all the other letters, but because the same opportunity had once been offered to his mother. Best of all, it met all year long. No more Dursleys!
He thought over the second to last paragraph, the one about his academic skills. Harry had been an indifferent student while with the Dursleys, but that was more because he was punished, rather than rewarded, for academic success. And here, at Hogwarts, where he was admired because of his fame, he knew he wouldn't be challenged on the basis of what he could do – rather, he'd be gladhanded through based on what he had once done. It felt nice to be in a place where at least one person would hold him to a high standard based on what was possible given his family background. And no more Dursleys or Professor Snape. He couldn't dismiss the importance of that last point enough.
Harry quickly read through the other letters, but none compared to the Irish school. He even put aside the letter from the Egyptian school.
Harry quickly wrote a letter with a long series of questions for Headmaster Murphy-Black. He had the sudden inspiration to thoroughly explain why he was so late in writing. His second draft included a paragraph that explained apologetically about the piles of unacknowledged mail hidden in a room in Hogwarts and begged for forgiveness for missing any application deadlines. He took an hour to draft brief letters explaining his tardiness in responding to the other schools as well. It would be a long time before Harry heard about what kind of chaos those simple acknowledgements would cause.
The Scoil's response came on Wednesday morning. Harry saved the letter until after classes and then read it when he was alone. It answered all his considerable questions and set his mind at ease. The one section that amused him the most read as follows:
"I was quite concerned that your mail has been withheld from you for ten years. According to the International Confederation of Warlocks, mail may not be unknowingly or unconsentually withheld from any witch or wizard, including convicted felons, for any reason. This is quite a severe breech of international law should you elect to pursue it, Mr. Potter, as freedom of communication is held by inviolate by all law-abiding witches and wizards."
Harry was amused, but didn't think it would do him any good when he was now settled on leaving Hogwarts. Dumbledore didn't seem the sort to really care about laws, did he? (Even if he had written a lot of them himself.) Hagrid had accidentally spilled the beans to Harry one afternoon in his hut on a lot of what Dumbledore had done over the years, particularly as it related to Harry Potter. How Hagrid could remain faithful to Dumbledore boggled Harry's imagination. He shook his head and put it all out of mind.
Harry sent the Scoil a return letter on Thursday requesting a portkey for Sunday morning. Harry only told Mipsy that he was leaving and asked her to forward on any new mail he might receive. (With Mipsy's assistance, every other reasonable letter from the past ten years had received a polite and generic response. The Hogwarts school owls received quite a work-out in those few days.) The house elf seemed quite sad for "Master Harry" to be leaving, but she was generally glad to be of service.
It was daybreak on Sunday morning when a giddy-looking, messy haired boy drug a trunk and an owl cage down the path from Hogwarts Castle to the main gate. Once he reached his destination, he pulled out an oddly shaped medallion, spoke the phrase "Green Magic," and disappeared from Hogwarts and Britain altogether. His trunk, his owl, his everything was gone.
He left only a brief note on his dorm room bed explaining that he was withdrawing from Hogwarts in view of pursuing other educational opportunities. He made no mention of his dislike of Snape, or that he'd fallen asleep in Binns' class, or that he'd found his mail had been withheld from him for a decade, or that he knew that Professor McGonagall had lied to him about the mail situation. Or that he'd heard about strange folks like Dumbledore doing harm to children. Harry had learned from the Dursleys about how to keep secrets.
Harry landed in a clearing inside what appeared to be a very old forest. Following an old, rarely tread path, Harry progressed down, down, down into the mouth of a cavern. As he stepped through into the smallish cavern, Harry felt deep, heavy magic settle over his skin. When he left the first cavern and entered a larger, second one, he felt even more powerful magic wash over him, welcoming him, protecting him. He knew Hogwarts had wards, too, but they hadn't felt like these. Harry didn't even know precisely where the Hogwarts ones began and ended.
Harry continued walking. There were seven more of these magical barriers before Harry came into the final chamber, a massive, well lit cavern with a white and gray stone building right in the center of it all. The building was smaller than Hogwarts, only five stories at most with no towers and interior courtyards, but it seemed like it had more usable space. It was impressive in different ways from Hogwarts. It wasn't imposing; it was beautiful.
The entire floor of the cavern was covered in lush green grass and trees even though there was no natural light available. Harry began to understand a bit about the school name, then. The School of Green Magic – even grass could grow in this artificially lit, but profoundly magical environment. He could even spy some 'greenhouses' inside this cavern. Amazing.
Harry was stopped outside in the cavern for quite a few minutes before he heard and felt someone walk toward him. "Not as impressive an entrance as your boats at Hogwarts, but it serves," the tall man said.
Harry observed the young looking man. He was clearly younger than Uncle Vernon or any of his former neighbors on Privet Drive.
"It was nice enough. It was a pretty walk from the forest in. And the caverns are beautiful. The magic you used in them somehow made me feel safe…"
"That's as it should be, young Harry. Old, residual leprechaun magics combined with modern wards. It's quite a design, I think you'll find." He stuck out his hand. "My name is Orion Murphy-Black. I am the headmaster here, at least for a couple more years…"
Harry stuck out his hand. "It's nice to meet you. You wrote a really good letter, sir."
The headmaster laughed and then shook Harry's hand. "Come inside. We'll have a chat and get you set up."
The tour of the school leading to the Head's office had been brief and helpful. Harry had left his trunk in the main hall of the school. "It'll be perfectly safe there. The house elves will even move for it after they notice it."
The Head's office didn't seem intimidating at all when Harry arrived there with his 'guide.'
"Come in, young master wizard, and find yourself a seat. We can go over the formal introductions to the school, now that you've had a bit of a view of it, and then I can answer any questions you might have decided to ask…"
Harry smiled. No one had bothered with such things when he showed up at Hogwarts. It was rush, rush, rush; the disorganized exiting of the train; the boats; sorting hat; a bit of nosh; then sleeping in Gryffindor. What a confusing mess.
"Let's talk academics first, young Harry. We've borrowed a bit from the Muggle world as we use a modified Oxbridge approach to instruction: you'll have tutors and one weekly individual lesson for each of your subjects, but you'll have far more than two classes per term as the non-magicals do."
The headmaster laughed at himself here. "There will be lectures on a variety of topics offered schoolwide and you should attend those of interest or those indicated by your tutors. Your sciences and math courses in particular will make use of mandatory lectures. Usually guest lecturers or some of our graduate students speaking on topics of interest; some can be quite good, others rather tedious, but I never officially said that, did I?
"We have fifteen week terms and three terms per school year. You'll find yourself having to learn the material for your class before you show up for your tutorial, so our Scoil is actually based on a form of monitored self-instruction where your teachers are there to help ensure you learn good practices. When you need them, we offer a proctored magic practice hall most hours of the day and night during term; eventually you'll also need access to our proctored potions and science labs, greenhouses, and astronomical observatories (those require you to journey hundreds of feet above the school through special staircases).
"You meet with the current headmaster – me, for now – once at the end of a term to discuss your progress and your choices for the next term." He sounded like he was reeling off a familiar spiel.
"There's two weeks of break between terms generally, although it's usually three at the winter holiday. You have total freedom to leave the school during breaks, if you so choose. We don't require you to return home to any guardians; feel free to go touring or visit with a friend. You're legally a child, but we prefer to treat you like an adult."
Harry liked that last admission very much.
"So, more questions, young Harry?"
He shook his head. Everything made sense so far.
"I'll show you to your room after we finish discussing your first term courses. Maybe I can even see fit to show you to the dining hall for some breakfast. I take it you haven't eaten yet…"
"That's correct, sir."
Orion Murphy-Black pulled a few documents off his desk. One was a small pamphlet. The other a single sheet of parchment.
"The printed pamphlet explains the first three years of schooling in general terms. Your first term timetable is what I want to chat about. It'll seem like a lot of classes, but you'll only have about two per day and one on Saturday morning. Plus any lectures you choose to attend. That leaves you a considerable amount of time to prepare for lessons – or explore outside – or learn to ride a broom – or gorge in the dining hall – or what have you. So long as you get all of your assigned work done, you pick the order.
"Do remember you'll have about three hours of work per course per week, more for the languages and maths. I do also recommend that you participate in the beginner's physical education course offered every morning at six forty-five. Builds up stamina and energy levels, very helpful for young witches and wizards…"
Harry just nodded. He remembered primary school and daily gymnasium.
"Mondays will be your tutorial in the Study of Other Magical Races. I believe we have Master's candidates working on leprechauns, vampires, dragons, griffins, and sphinxes this year, so those will likely be the major topics. You'll take this for three years before it becomes an elective. In that time, you should get to experience nearly every kind of creature or magical race known to us. You will also have Dueling and Beginning Combat, which is unlike most other courses in that you share your tutor and time slot with everyone else in your year group. The course at your present level will be mostly simple spells, plus learning physical techniques that you can also practice in your physical education option. We don't start teaching swordplay until the middle of your second year and magical dueling until your third term of this year, so that'll start during the summer.
"Tuesdays you will have Introduction to Magical Culture. You'll take it for just the first year here at the Scoil. This course will have a lot of mandatory lectures in addition to the tutorials. Expect the course to cover magical history, traditions, occult studies, magical theory, basic runes, and magical math. I assure you that we hire no ghosts, so the history components should at least be bearable." Harry laughed. "You'll also have basic Charms, Jinxes, and Hexes. Most students consider this the single best first year course. You'll have to tell me if you agree.
"On Wednesdays, expect beginner-level Transfiguration and Animation and English Language and Literature. On Thursdays, you'll have Elementary Mathematics – which has long, long drill sets due every week – and Introduction to the Sciences. The laboratory component to that course begins second term. On Fridays, you'll have Politics, Philosophy, and Economics plus European and World History. On Saturday morning, you'll take a language. First term options include French or Latin or German. Some students choose to take more than one, but that's up to you. You'll also have a few mandatory hours of language laboratory and the teacher will probably pair you up with a native speaker of French or German to practice with on a regular basis."
Harry sat trying to digest it all. That really was a lot of classwork.
"Sir, when am I supposed to take Potions or Herbology? They were part of my Hogwarts classes."
The headmaster nodded. "Yes, we add those in a bit later. They take less time to get you proficient in than some of the other magical subjects – assuming they're properly taught. Herbology will start for you in summer term and Potions the term after. The most you'll ever have is three classes per day, I'd expect. There are a lot of other classes that come in and out of the schedule, you see.
"Your introductory science course eventually becomes Astronomy, Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Archaeology, Anthropology, Introduction to Technology and Engineering, or several other options. Quite a few history options as you get older, too, both magical and otherwise. Your math courses change into trigonometry or algebra or calculus. Your Introduction to Magical Culture can become Ancient Runes or Modern Warding Techniques and Cursebreaking or Magical Mathematics and Arithmancy. You can finish up with one language and start some others. We offer a course in Magical Languages, plus usually Gaelic, Italian, Greek, Spanish, Ancient Egyptian and Sumerian, Arabic, Mandarin, and Hindi. Sometimes others too, depending on who we have here pursuing their Masteries. Our Mastery students defray the costs of their education by taking on students, so I hope you'll find them interested and interesting instructors. If not, please speak with me."
Harry nodded that he understood. Some parts of the explanation sounded like how Stonewall had managed its students to some extent – and Harry had been prepared to go to that Muggle school until very recently.
"Students take the International Standard O-levels in their third year – International Standard include both magical and nonmagical examinations, if you didn't know – and their International Standard N-levels in their fifth year usually; nearly all successful students begin their mastery-level work from there. I should mention that the nonmagical subjects on the test are given equivalent score and your results are filed with the 'Muggle' authorities which should make it easier if you ever wish to attend a nonmagical university or take a nonmagical job."
Harry had already heard that part from the written answers the Headmaster had already supplied.
"What do the students do for fun?" Harry sounded a touch worried that everyone here was actually worse than Hermione Granger.
The headmaster smiled at the innocent, slightly fearful question. "We're intense, but I think you'll find the people here are fun. Even the house elves like to prank students, so stay on their good side unless you like your underwear to be dyed green for a month. No, seriously, they've done that to me before." Both of the men in the office chuckled for a moment. "Remember that we're a closed campus during term, save for emergencies – so people amuse themselves with their friends and with clubs. In the interterms, people organize trips and contests and even African safari quests – the only limit is your imagination and bank account, I'd say."
"And what sort of clubs are there, sir?"
"Every subject area has one or more clubs, like for Charms or History. These are mostly run by the master's candidates, which is a good thing as they like to organize field trips during the between-term holidays. Then there are the profession clubs, like the Teachers Association and the Junior ICW for budding politicians. Language clubs, too, for French, German, and Egyptian…maybe more. The biggest club is probably the Flying Team: we don't have organized Quidditch teams here or offer flying lessons, but the club takes care of that. It's almost all preparatory students; really good people leading it this year, too. They usually plan a couple of trips to professional Quidditch matches every year. Learn to fly and then you can play in a pickup game or two on the weekend. I think you might like it. Your father was a great Chaser in his day… Then the Dueling Club is quite useful: you learn a lot of spells and techniques and get to relieve some stress by firing spells at your classmates!"
"The Creatures Club does perhaps the best trips every year. They like to hit a lot of the world's magical preserves, Tanzania last year, Tasmania this year, I think, or was it Romania? Plus the stuff they do during term – a lot of crazy folks speak on their passions: dragon breeding, nundu handling, snake charming, and the like."
The questions came and went for twenty minutes before an intrigued Harry Potter cleared out his head. Partially it was stomach telling him it was now time to eat.
"Alright then, a quick test, and then some food, alright?"
Orion brought out a blood ritual set and collected a bit of Harry's blood. He performed the three incantations and waited for the results of the diagnostic ritual.
"We use this to determine if you'll need any special assistance or lessons, say if you have any unusual skills… And it seems you do, Mr. Potter. You should be a natural in the Magical Languages course in a few years as you seem to be a Parselmouth, snake language, you know, and you've got a block on you to keep you from accessing your metamorphmagus abilities…"
"Shape shifting. Some wizards can change their hair color, eye color, body shape, pretty much anything. One I knew could even change his natural scent and magical aura; he wound up being a very effective bank robber, could impersonate anyone anytime. On the other hand, some don't get much of anything. It really depends and we'll just have to see once we take that block off you. And, we'll check for any other types of blocks on your skills and abilities, of course, as it appears that Hogwarts hasn't."
Harry was peeved again at his old school. He also felt more than a few fingers of fear run down his spine.
"Sir, are you sure that they can't make me leave here? I mean, the Headmaster there apparently stuck me with my relatives until it was time for me to come to his school…"
"Well, during term, he won't be able to get in at all. In fact, it'd be rather amusing to see him try. Those old leprechaun magics are quite vicious to people who aren't holding a school portkey. Dumbledore would be wandering up and down the Irish countryside for days or even weeks… Off term, if you left the school grounds, he could try, I suppose. But you're a joint citizen of Britain and Ireland. Would you like to claim Irish sanctuary, make a formal case over what was done to you?"
Harry blinked rapidly for a few moments. Then he nodded his head. "I never want to see those people again, my aunt, my uncle, my cousin. Never."
"Let's get that started before we find some food." He rifled around behind him trying to find some form or other. "Oh, I had a question for you, Mr. Potter. You already started Hogwarts. Why did you transfer out this soon after the term started? What was the straw that broke the camel's back?"
"Snape. Their Potions instructor. He treated me like my relatives did. I came to magic school to learn magic, but also to be rid of them. I wasn't staying at a place that employed the equivalent of my Uncle Vernon."
The Headmaster nodded along. "Sensible. I know a bit about that man, too, and I wouldn't want him around children either, particularly prepubescent young men, if you catch my meaning. Okay, here's the form. Now that we're doing things by the book I have to ask if you'd like to accept dual citizenship? Irish and British?"
The questions lasted ten minutes before Orion Murphy-Black had the formal complaint filled out. Harry began to breathe easier.
While Harry settled in rapidly at his new school, very little remained settled in Britain or at Hogwarts. Just before the noon meal on that Sunday, Dumbledore learned that Harry had left Hogwarts. He had to grit his teeth, smile, and sit through lunch all the while he was trying to figure out what had happened.
He used his hand signal for "emergency teacher meeting" midway through the meal. Albus needed to know what the hell had been going on in his school to send a student – Harry Potter of all students – packing less than two full weeks into term.
After everyone gathered in the anteroom, he began to speak. "I just learned that Harry Potter has left Hogwarts and plans for an education elsewhere, magical or Muggle I know not."
Snape was the first to snipe. Dumbledore decided to cut through the hippogriff manure. He whipped out his wand and cast Legilimens at Severus. He wanted to see Severus' interactions with the Potter boy. And Albus was disgusted at what he saw, not just with Potter but with other students, young, old, it didn't matter. Severus had cost him Potter!
"Severus, don't ever do that again, not to a Potter, a Longbottom, or a Weasley, not to anyone in any of your classes. Never taunt them; never mock them; teach them what they need to know to succeed and be safe. You're on probation for one year. I won't hesitate to find you alternate work, do you hear me? The Ministry could have you testing cauldron bottom thicknesses from a room in the dungeon if I had your teaching credentials revoked – or your Potions Mastery suspended. And you will never have students in your private office or quarters again, especially not your godson. I'll set up the wards myself."
None of the staff, save Minerva and Severus, had ever heard the cold, calculating, angry side of Dumbledore. None of them ever wanted to hear it again. A few were shivering.
Severus was shivering and pale. The other teachers had heard the rumors and now they'd more or less been confirmed by Dumbledore. A few identified with him, they had desires, too, but none of them would be comforting Severus Snape any time soon.
"Now, who else can tell me anything? I refuse to believe that Mr. Potter left just because of our resident Potions Master. Anything?"
Flitwick had nothing. None of the other teachers remembered more than meeting the kid. McGonagall, though, was uncharacteristically silent. "Those letters, Albus. Could something have come in to upset Potter with those letters you didn't redirect to the mail room?"
Albus was grateful for the clue, but wished his Deputy Headmistress hadn't discussed that particular aspect of Dumbledore's plans in such a public place.
It had been foolish not to transfer the owl wards to Hogwarts as soon as Harry Potter had arrived at King's Cross. But Albus was old and sometimes details slipped.
"Did you never inquire, Minerva?"
She shook her head. Albus wanted to swear, but didn't.
"I already had the elves check his room. There was nothing there but a brief letter explaining that he'd left. This won't do. Harry Potter needs to be at Hogwarts. I have plans for him, err, to educate him just like every other student. No other school would do as good a job…"
No one believed his slip cover up, least of all Minerva.
"He needs to be here, under our influence and instruction…" And control, Dumbledore thought, but didn't say. "Who knows what he'll get up to outside our walls?"
Minerva broke in again. "Albus, I really do think this had something to do with those owls. Harry seems smart enough. He would have to wonder about receiving so much mail and then no more. Do you think he'd go looking or asking questions?"
Dumbledore looked thoughtful and then blanched pure white. He ran out of the antechamber and only Minerva followed him. The other teachers were well glad to be out of Albus' presence.
Dumbledore ran to a room in the dungeons and undid the wards to allow himself entrance. What he saw inside was…nothing. There should have been tens of thousands of letters and packages in here. Instead, nothing at all.
The small house elf appeared in the room. "Professor," she said, dipping low to the ground out of habit.
"Where are all the letters? What did you do with them?"
"I has helped the young Master to read and sort his mail. He being done with the letters of acknowledgement, too. Well-mannered young wizard, Professor, sir."
"Why did you help him? This room was a secret!"
"Master Harry was asking about his mail. It was being my duty to assist the young master."
"No, your duty is to me and the school, elf, not to some 'young master.' This means clothes, Mipsy."
She bowed again. The almost Slytherin house elf already had plans in mind.
Harry Potter looked up from his book on wizarding culture when he felt someone enter his room. He looked behind him and saw Mipsy. "Why are you here?"
"Dumbledore gave me clothes. I'm free."
"You don't sound sad, so congratulations, I guess. But, why are you here?"
"Mipsy will be looking after young master's mail and other requirements now…"
She disappeared before Harry had a chance to protest.
"Great. I left Hogwarts but I still have a Hogwarts house elf who thinks she belongs to me and my mail." He snorted a bit and then returned to reading on the basic facts of the wizarding world. Harry wished he'd known much of this information as soon as Hagrid told him he was a wizard. And why hadn't Flourish and Blotts sold a book like this?
The Scoil had supplied all of his books as part of the course fees. This small, slim book was easily the most fascinating thing Harry had ever seen.
Harry decided he was going to like Ireland. It was a nice school. He'd already learned tons on a weekend day. He'd met a couple guys around his age and they seemed nice and not at all impressed by his scar. It was perfect.
It was early Monday morning. Potter had been missing for one day. No one outside Hogwarts knew yet, even the students didn't exactly know. Albus had spent hours yesterday and through the night consulting his trinkets and performing two dozen spells. The boy was obviously under heavy wards, very heavy ones.
So, he'd opted to attend a magical school or enroll in some form of apprenticeship with a paranoid sort of wizard.
Today, Albus was going to check the usual suspects. He'd already cleared Moody and Proudfoot last night. Neither had taken in any young apprentices who would be better off at Hogwarts.
First stop, Prawley Day School.
Harry was breathing hard and feeling the pain of his first session of Physical Education. They'd been out running in the grass surrounding the school. It had felt wonderful. Harry had, of necessity, become quite a gifted sprinter earlier in his life but, oddly, also had the stamina to run for longer distances.
He walked back to his room and collapsed into the shower. Things were so different here already. So different, so…peaceful.
He went through his day quickly. He especially enjoyed his first flying lesson from the Flying Team that afternoon.
"Most of you young'uns have been here a while. You know the safety procedure and have done some basic back and forth flying. Potter here just showed up, so we'll cut him some slack. Everyone call your brooms and mount up."
He'd never felt such freedom in the air. He did the safety lesson quickly, particularly as he didn't seem given to falling off his own broom, and caught up with the others who were learning some of the basics of 'swift breaking.' Then he learned about how to change direction in the air. Finally, as everyone else looked a bit tired, they decided to do a quick drill to improve Quidditch skills. The fifth year who ran the Flying Team lobbed golf balls into the air and had the first years attempt to catch them.
None of the ones pitches towards Harry hit the ground. He caught them all, even ones that his neighboring compatriots were bound to let fall.
"Should be a good year for pick up games. Potter seems like he has quite an eye, might be a good seeker. We'll do a Keeper/Chaser drill next week: ball's bigger and it might suit some of you better than this little drill. Not everyone's meant to catch the Snitch."
Harry smiled. He really loved flying. He decided to get into Dublin on the holiday and buy his own broom.
Albus Dumbledore wasn't having a good day. He'd checked the nine magical day schools in Britain before taking an international portkey to Beauxbatons.
Nothing. Nothing at all.
It was like Harry had literally disappeared. Poof and he was gone.
He sat down, finally back in his office, and tried to sort through all of the relevant facts. Harry realized his mail had been denied him. He somehow realized that he shouldn't say anything about it to the staff or even his friends. Then he saw something in the mail that encouraged him to leave. It couldn't be a cursed object, the mail wards would have seen to that. What kind of letter would be good enough to persuade Harry to leave…
Albus frowned. A letter from them. Them. That blasted Scoil. They'd poached more than a few of the brightest intended for Hogwarts. Albus had had to personally go and re-persuade more than a handful of eleven-year-olds, including one young witch named Lily Evans many years ago.
Albus had tried to find the place dozens of times, mostly out of curiosity, some out of pique. He stumbled from his office and began searching the Hogwarts castle and grounds for portkey residue. It'd be more than a full day old by now, but it might still be useful.
Dumbledore used his magic sensing skills and quickly found himself standing at the outer gates of the grounds. Harry had used his portkey here, it seemed. Albus gathered up the remaining magical essence from the portkey and then followed behind its trail.
He landed with a jarring shudder in the middle of a rather dark forest. And his magic sensing skills were going crazy. They could detect Harry everywhere. Literally everywhere. Albus got up, almost against his will, and began to wander the forest calling out for Harry Potter.
It would be four days before he stopped doing it. That was when he collapsed in utter exhaustion with a severe case of dehydration. The leprechauns who came across this wizard in their forest took some pity on the old food. Had no one counseled him about not ever going questing on leprechaun lands? Lesser mortals often went insane.
They drug him to the edge of a clear lake and dropped him in. They had a good laugh before they toddled off into the twilight.
Harry made it through his Latin and French lessons on Saturday and then went to take a quick nap before lunch. He'd never worked this hard in his life. He was tired all the time from the exercise, the magic, the constant thinking, and the homework. The neverending homework. But he wasn't unhappy. Tired, yes. Stretched thin, always. Always busy. But not unhappy.
He'd done well in his first round of tutorials and liked most of his teachers. A few seemed indifferent to teaching at all, but Harry didn't mind them. He'd work around their incompetence. None of them actively went after Harry like Snape had. None of them bored him to sleep like Binns had.
He'd also struck up a few friendships with a few boys his age and slightly older – and a continued few correspondences with folks back in Britain who could seem to hold an intelligent conversation by owl post. Hedwig and Mipsy had been busy receiving and delivering mail this week, particularly once Harry and then Dumbledore went missing. Witches and wizards apparently thought they could fix everything with poorly spelled letters and ancient owls.
Harry suspected that his former Headmaster was now trying to track him down. He should have felt nervous, but he didn't. Instead of nerves, he felt something else.
Harry was beginning to be able to consider that he might actually be safe and secure in his new surroundings.
It was an odd feeling as he passed out for an hour's nap. He might actually be happy.
The first of October hit Albus Dumbledore like a sledgehammer. He had lost and failed to recover Harry Potter, the suspect teacher Quirinus Quirrell had been eaten by Hagrid's dog Fluffy during Dumbledore's extended absence, and now Dumbledore was trying to teach Defence, recruit a new teacher, and strengthen the protections for the Stone (but not make it so hard that three determined first-year students couldn't make it through the course). And he also continued searching for Harry Potter.
Merlin on high!
And this particular day was especially awful because Albus needed Cornelius Fudge's assistance. And Dumbledore hated stupid people, especially stupid people who'd stumbled into powerful situations. Thus he loathed Cornelius Fudge. He'd initially deigned to assist Fudge once he'd become Minister for the simple reason that stupid people didn't dig into things they shouldn't in most cases. Fudge deviated from the average: he was dumb and curious and very vocal (especially when bribed by Lucius Malfoy). Dumbledore had already planned out how Fudge would simply 'disappear' one day with a good chunk of the Ministry's funds. No one knew exactly where Bagnold had gone after her term in office, did they? Dumbledore decided to push forward his plans.
"Cornelius, let's discuss getting young Harry back on British soil, should we?"
"About time, Dumbledore. Prophet's been screaming about this for almost two weeks now. "Boy-Who-Lived Flees Britain and Hogwarts; Snape on Probation." What kind of a school are you running there, Albus?"
The headmaster shook his head. That wasn't what he wanted to get into right now.
"Enough, Cornelius. You need a start a suit with the ICW asking for Harry to return to Britain. I'll push it through once we receive it, then this will all be taken care of…"
"Hold on, Albus. If it were this easy, you'd have already done it. What are you keeping back?"
Albus swore mentally. Damn Fudge for growing a brain at a most inconvenient time.
"Well, I suspect that he's decided to attend the Scoil ar Draiocht Glas…"
"Oh, ho, Dumbledore. Wanted to make a fool out of me, did you? If he's really there, you're not getting him back until Christmas at the earliest…and that's even if we win against the Irish, bloody tricksy bastards. Swear every one of them is part-Leprechaun if I didn't know better."
Dumbledore wasn't feeling all that charitable about leprechauns at the present moment, but he did keep quiet.
It took Albus Dumbledore thirty minutes to convince Cornelius Fudge to draw up the papers. Then he worked closely with the three Ministry officials who did the work to be sure every propriety, rule, and regulation was followed. Getting bounced out of the ICW court on a technicality was an almost everyday occurrence. Dumbledore himself was guilty of bouncing a slew of annoying or unfavorable petitions for incorrect formatting or improper ink usage or failure to adhere to the proper format.
Rules, after all, were past, present, and future of every bureaucrat. Albus loved playing those games from time to time. Now he would use his knowledge to get him what he wanted.
Albus wanted Harry Potter at Hogwarts.
Harry Potter was learning his first offensive jinx. The leg-locker. He was about to have a bit of a duel with a fellow classmate, Sean O'Keefe. They had dodging, running, and the leg-locker as options. The first one to fall – for whatever reason – won the duel.
Neither boy had perfected the casting of the jinx before they arrived at class. Harry had spent an hour at the practice room trying to get it, but it wouldn't come.
However, when his blood was pumping after dodging half-formed wisps of Sean's jinx, Harry had his first breakthrough. He said the words, waved his wands, and the jinx flew out of the wand. Sean was down about a minute into the duel.
His instructor pulled Harry aside later. "I'd wager, Mr. Potter, that you're going to be better in high adrenaline situations than you would be in an academic casting environment. I'd suggest partnering up when you try spells, especially offensive and defensive ones. If you make it seem real, your magic is likely to respond better and more forcefully. It'll probably speed your learning up…"
Harry grinned at the suggestion. It was completely brilliant.
Harry was mortified. The lecturer was delivering a 'Survey of Recent European Wizarding History' and had touched on the Dark Lord Voldemort for five minutes. Harry's name had come up more than once. Harry tried to disappear by slumping down in his seat before he became a bit angry. The lecturer finally started to talk about things that Harry knew were wrong.
"While the Ministry has not revealed where Harry Potter grew up, most conjecture points toward a minor wizarding family outside Britain to preserve the boy's anonymity and ensure his safety…"
Here Harry did sit back up in his seat. He raised his hand to ask a question, but it was quite a few moments before the lecturer noticed him.
"I'm sorry, ma'am, but your information is wrong. I grew up with Muggle relatives in Britain…"
"Very funny, young man. Harry Potter went to Hogwarts. It was in the papers…"
"Excuse me, again, ma'am. But Harry Potter – me – left Hogwarts and came here. I've been here for eleven weeks now…"
The lecturer scoured Harry's features and eventually noticed his scar. Her eyes grew wide.
"Oh, I see. I hadn't heard, been busy at my research you see…"
Harry stopped listening to the woman after that. So did many of his fellow classmates. If she couldn't keep up on current events, such as Harry coming to the Scoil, how could they trust the rest of her facts?
"Happy Winter Holiday, young Mr. Potter. Would you like some tea or some hot chocolate?"
"No, thank you, sir."
"Alright, then. Straight to business. I've had excellent reports from all your tutors, Harry, very well done. You are cleared to continue on for another term."
Harry appeared to already have suspected this. Still, he grinned. He was such a happy, pleasant child. Given his background, Orion couldn't help but feel surprised every time the thought occurred to him.
"Thank you sir."
"How did you find your classes?"
"Most of them were wonderful. I remember you mentioning that Charms is a favorite class for most beginning students. I believe you were correct. I also particularly enjoyed the Introduction to Wizarding Culture…"
"As you probably should, Harry. You are the first Muggle-raised or muggle-born wizard we've had at the school in thirty years. Quite a few of the ones we invited were poached away by the other, larger schools. Muggles seem to equate the size of the school with the quality of the education provided; not sure why that is exactly. Still, I'm quite sure the Introduction was very helpful. So, before we talk about next term, I wonder if you'd share with me your other highlights?"
"Well, the non-magical classes were very good. I've gotten loads better at learning new spells. The tutor in my English course finally taught me how to write an essay, sir. No one else had ever explained it well before…" Harry was glad to talk for almost ten minutes on his progress. He'd become quite the little scholar, given the proper environment.
"And what are your thoughts about next term, Mr. Potter?"
"Well, I know I get to start laboratories for science. That sounds fun. And all my other classes stay the same. It sounds fine to me."
"And how are you finding two languages?"
"It's helpful. Getting better at Latin is helping me with my French…"
The Headmaster smiled. He had a prize here. He just needed to keep expanding and challenging young Potter. More courses, harder courses. He'd have a word with the boy's tutors to speed up the usual curricula. Orion suspected the boy would do very well. He would be truly gifted by the time he was fourteen.
"I have found a tutor for your Parseltongue skills. It'll just be a few hours during the term, I think, with no papers or anything. Very informal. Just to help you master your skills. I am still looking for someone who can work with you on your metamorphmagery, though. There are so few publicly acknowledged in the world right now. One just graduated from Hogwarts, but she's joined the British Ministry of Magic as an Auror Trainee. Perhaps I'll ask around in China and India."
Harry smiled. Harry had only met the Headmaster twice, but he felt that the man was a good one, doing the right things. He was friendly and offered good advice and he'd gone out of his way to make Harry feel at home.
"And your plans for the vacation? Are you staying at the school?"
Harry nodded. "Yes, for most of term. I plan to spend a few days visiting my friend Victor at the New Year, though. And maybe during the next break I can catch a professional Quidditch game. The Flying Team is awesome, Professor…"
Yes, Harry was doing very well.
"I did have one thing to address with you, Mr. Potter."
"Oh?" He didn't seem nervous.
"Your former Headmaster pulled some strings to have a lawsuit against the Scoil brought before the ICW…."
Here Harry began to turn a bit pale.
"Don't worry. I produced the writ of sanctuary, along with the supporting evidence. Instead of just giving it to the ICW so it could disappear or be destroyed (such a bastion of corruption), I gave several copies out. The Irish press began eating Britain and Hogwarts alive. The British Ministry not checking on your welfare all those years; those horrible Muggles; the Headmaster setting owl wards without your consent or knowledge, then hiding your mail inside the dungeons of his school. They thought they were being clever using the ICW to do their dirty work. They just look like thugs now. Actually, they're in fear you'll actually show your face and pull out some pensieve testimony to make everyone look even worse…"
"So, the moral of the story is that Dumbledore is playing games still. Be sure to take precautions when you're outside of the school. And perhaps you want to see if there are any books in the library on metamorph magic that you haven't already checked out. You might try experimenting to see what you can achieve, eh?"
Albus downed his third Firewhiskey of the evening. It had been a hellacious term. He'd only just managed to secure the services of a new DADA instructor for the following term and he wasn't feeling too comfortable with the candidate. The only candidate after months of looking (after all, who wanted to follow in the footsteps of a man who'd been eaten by a three-headed dog?): Lockhart, Gilderoy. Albus had gone back and looked at his personal notes of former students. The boy had been a middling student thirty years ago, now he was a famous author and destroyer of dark creatures. But it didn't add up to Albus. And it wasn't as if he could take a peek and see; the man had quite firm Occlumency protections in place. The biggest problem was that couldn't pass the brief practical examination Albus had given him. How could the man honestly teach NEWT-level defence if he couldn't form an adequate Shield Charm or use basic Transfiguration in a defensive scenario? Of course, Albus hadn't said that Lockhart had failed the exam, but it should have been obvious. Still Albus gave the man a six-month contract. He knew it would come back to bite him.
Albus sighed. Merlin's heavenly mess, even this Lockhart would be better than Albus continuing to teach the young monsters. He'd forgotten how utterly exhausting they were, how needy, how completely unschooled. Forty-plus years out of the classroom had taught Albus it was foolish to walk back inside one. Good riddance!
He slugged back his glass before realizing it was empty. He'd need another one before he could think about the drubbing he'd received at the ICW. He'd been caught, actually caught, in four illegal actions. Worse yet, it hadn't been swept under the carpet. No, the Irish papers reported it. Albus was no longer a senior executive of the ICW. He'd only just survived a vote of no-confidence in the Wizengamot here in Britain. And the Board of Governors was grumbling. They'd scheduled six meetings during the next term, like they wanted to be around Hogwarts constantly to spy on Albus Dumbledore.
Why had Harry gone? Why? It made all this so much harder. Albus had plans that required the boy. He needed to be back within Albus' firm guidance.
How to do it? How to get around that blasted Scoil? Albus needed someone with legal standing…oh, no. Albus could only think of a single person. He took a look at the mostly empty bottle and knocked the rest back again.
Harry Potter's legal guardian, as appointed in his parents' will. Harry Potter's godfather.
Sirius Black. Albus now needed Sirius Black. This was going to be rough.
Harry was eating dinner with a few of his friends when Mipsy brought Hedwig into the dining hall. Ordinarily owls were allowed only with the students' rooms. For Mipsy to do this meant the owl's message was very important.
"What do you have for me, girl?"
Harry removed the message from his owl and set to reading it. It seemed to be from someone called Sirius Black, a man who was claiming to be Harry's godfather. He briefly explained his friendship with Harry's father and mother – and his years unlawfully imprisoned for a crime he didn't commit. He asked to meet with Harry.
Harry walked over to his Headmaster's table and politely asked if he could speak with the man.
"Of course. Please take a seat. How may I help you, young Master Potter?"
"Sir, I just received this letter. It sounds genuine."
Harry pushed the parchment across the table.
Orion Murphy-Black continued eating for a few moments before he dropped his fork. "I knew Sirius. Oh my. Oh Merlin. Innocent, denied a trial ten years earlier. This sounds like a bad Muggle book, the Count of Monte Cristo or something. Sirius was my distant relation, a seventh cousin twice removed or something like that. I met Lily Evans, your mother, through him."
"Was he really my godfather?"
"I don't know, Harry. I knew he went to Azkaban and I could never quite believe he would do the things he was accused of doing…but sent to prison without a trial. That's got to be one of the very worst things to have happen. At the very least, I will send him the names of a couple excellent law wizards."
"But, it sounds like he wants to meet me, sir."
The Headmaster nodded. "I think it could be a good idea, Harry."
"Yes, meet with him when term ends. I'd recommend corresponding with them until then. It's possible he's been fed a lot of lies by the people who just released him. It does seem a touch convenient, the timing of all this. He sits in a cell for ten years before anyone realizes he'd never been tried; then they try him and discover he's actually innocent? This is more of Dumbledore's mess, but at least you can benefit from it. The Sirius I knew was a very interesting person, brash, funny, intensely loyal, but a touch cruel. Perhaps the years have softened him a bit – or, unfortunately, perhaps they've hardened him. His writing you a letter is a good sign. I would write back, young Harry."
Harry smiled, got up from the table, and ran out of the dining hall. He obviously wanted to start his letter right now. He'd never really met anyone who could tell him about his parents. Dumbledore and McGonagall probably could have, but never tried.
That first letter from Sirius spawned a near daily stream of correspondence between the pair. There was nothing important in the letters: Harry's report on his schooling and a few questions he wanted to ask; Sirius' stories about Harry's parents and some return questions.
Sirius Black sat at a table in a Muggle café in central Dublin. It was a nice spring day. It was even nicer that Sirius Black was a free man – and that his lawyers were shredding the British Ministry of Magic into ribbons. Sirius wanted them to pay as much as he could squeeze out of them…so that he could promptly and very publicly donate all of it to charity. St. Mungo's. St. Echidna's Magical Orphanage. The Veteran Auror's Debilitation Fund. The Strife Relief Fund. Scoil ar Draiocht Glas, which was currently educating his godson. None of it would directly benefit the Ministry of Magic, Hogwarts, Dumbledore, or his Order of the Phoenix. All of them had left Sirius to rot. All of them could go straight to Dis and beg for mercy.
Sirius was a smart man. He read the winds when he released. He saw why Dumbledore had suddenly remembered about him. He knew they wanted Harry the second Dumbledore ever so casually mentioned that Harry Potter had elected to attend school in Ireland. Then he got confirmation after confirmation in what had happened before and after his 'trial.'
Sirius wasn't having any more of Dumbledore's nonsense. He wanted to be with his godson, to help educate him, to protect him. The way he should have done years ago. Sirius had been an Auror. There was no good reason for him to have handed his responsibility to that half-giant Hagrid. No reason. Had he been in his right mind – and thinking of the future and not the painful immediate past, not dwelling on revenge for James and Lily – Sirius would never have done it. Sirius would have taken Harry and left Peter the Rat to Ministry justice.
Dumbledore, Hagrid, McGonagall. These were the people who had placed Harry with those 'relatives' of his. They were on Sirius Black's list.
Sirius wondered what Harry was like now. Did he look like James had? Or more like Lily? Was he kind, funny – or had the Muggles ruined the Potter essence inside him? Sirius felt his stomach clench.
From the letters Sirius had exchanged with his godson, he was sure that Harry was quite bright and enthusiastic. He was planning on attending his first Quidditch match in a few days, but reported he was pretty decent on a broom from the informal lessons he'd been taking.
Sirius was ripped from his thoughts when a mousy haired young man stepped in front of Sirius' table.
"Yes, do I know you?"
"I'm in disguise, Mr. Black, but I'm the one you're waiting to meet, I think."
Sirius clamped his mouth shut before he could shout out, "Harry Potter." Then he nodded his head a few times. "Very smart, even devious."
"I'm going to walk away now. You follow behind me in two minutes. We'll wind up at the park near the river."
Sirius had to forcibly restrain himself from hugging his godson before the boy walked away. Because of the disguise, he looked nothing like James. But, he sounded like him. He had the same smile, even. Oh Merlin.
Sirius got up, dropped a few bills on the table, and followed along behind. He purposely stopped at a few store windows to admire this or that trinket. But he never lost sight of his godson. It was fun, this little game they were playing. Sirius didn't think he had anyone tailing him in Ireland, but he wouldn't put it past Dumbledore. If he did? Well, it might be Moody, but not in a heavily Muggle area like this. How many Muggles had peg legs, scarred faces, and magical whirling eyes?
He saw Harry stop and sit down on a park bench. Sirius didn't waver in his concentration on arriving at that bench. A few minutes later, Sirius took a seat as well.
"Can you cast some 'Notice-Me-Not' charms, Mr. Black?"
"Yes, I can. And, please, call me Sirius."
"Thank you," Harry said.
"Oh, wow, Harry. I don't know what to say. I've thought about you probably every day since you were born and this is the first time we get to meet since you were a toddler, on a park bench in Dublin. I'm so happy to be free again…and that you agreed to write to me and then to meet with me…"
"I didn't even know you existed, Mr. Black, until I got your letter. A lot in my life hasn't been my choice. A lot has been hidden from me. And you were just the kind of person I've always wanted to meet: someone who knew my parents, someone who could tell me what they were like. My Aunt Petunia…"
"I know, Harry. I got the whole story. I am so angry about that I'm still swearing…"
Harry gave a polite laugh for Sirius' efforts at lightening the situation.
"…I met that vile woman twice in my life and I can comfortably say I'd never volunteer to be in the same room as her, let alone the same house."
Harry nodded his head. He seemed to prefer not speaking about the Dursley family.
"So, how has your schooling gone? Leaving Hogwarts seems to have made you quite happy."
"They don't care about my fame here, Sirius. I'm just a regular student here. It's nice. I'm good at Charms and Defense. I'm becoming a pretty good flier. And I get to do all my old subjects from when I was younger plus learn magic. We learned about leprechauns and dragons this past term – I really liked the dragons. They had two Welsh Greens and a Hebridean Black. During the summer break, I plan to go to Romania with some other students to the dragon preserve. They have Horntails, Ironbellies, Short-Snouts, Longhorns, and Opaleyes, I think. I really, really like dragons…"
Here Harry sounded like James. Full of enthusiasm, full of curiosity and wonder, full of life.
"…and Charms is still my favorite magical class. My tutor tells me I'm very gifted. He's put me on an accelerated schedule. I learn two to four new charms a week – I have more homework for that class than any two others – but I really love it. The Dueling class is starting to get good finally – some spells we can use, simple ones like a Leg-Locker and a Tickler. But it could eventually be my overall favorite. I'm going to join the Dueling Club next year for sure. I start Herbology next term. I'm pretty good with a garden, living with the Dursleys taught me that much and how to cook, too, so it should be fun. And…"
Sirius almost flinched when Harry brought up the Dursleys again. He could feel the pain conveyed in his words. He could almost taste the loathing, fear, and hatred his godson felt toward them. How had that happened – their cruelty – how had it happened under the noses of the neighbors, the schools, the police? Did no one notice? Or did Vernon and Petunia spread some sort of lie to cover their abuse and neglect?
"…I'm very curious as to how they grow things where the school is situated. Must be magical somehow…"
"Why does that make you curious?"
Harry obviously wanted to say more, but found he couldn't. He closed his mouth and then reopened it.
"You'll find no one can speak of the Scoil past a certain level of detail. It's a secrecy ward of some sort. To know more, you'd need an invitation to visit, Sirius, I'm sorry."
"Don't be, Harry. I do have such an invitation and I plan to meet with the Headmaster, a man I knew years ago, in a few days…"
"For honesty's sake, I'll come right out and tell you that I want to keep an eye on you. I was stupid when I went after the real traitor just after your parents died. I should have been worried about my godson, about you, Harry. As for staying at the school, I think I should have something to fill my days with, too. I'm the last of my family left alive – an old, old, very wealthy family – and I'd like to do something to give it a better name. So I think I'll pursue a Mastery in Ancient Runes and Warding and take on a career, reconnect with people through a profession. It won't be that easy, after all those years in that hellhole, but I want to try…"
Harry, for the first time, seemed genuinely happy.
"What did the Hogwarts Headmaster tell you to do, Sirius?"
"Oh, him. Well, he finally remembered that I existed. So he decided to use my status as your godfather to his advantage. He arranged a show trial for me – to get me out of prison not through facts, but through trickery. They were going to claim, correctly, that I'd never received a trial and, without revealing exactly what happened, push through a measure saying that I had to be released. The Wizengamot didn't buy it: more than half of them demanded that I account for my 'crimes,' so I received something of a trial in an open session of the Wizengamot. Weren't they surprised when I told them the truth: my one-time friend Peter Pettigrew betrayed my friends – your parents, Harry –, I went after him for justice, he framed me a second time and disappeared, then Dumbledore and Fudge come along to play games with me…to 'free' me from Azkaban and then impose harsh conditions on my probation. One of them would have been to ensure that I sue for your return, Harry. Weren't those old idiots surprised when the truth came out? Dumbledore lost his leadership role and even his seat on the Wizengamot. Fudge was tossed out a few days later in the public uproar. Fickle and oblivious they may be most of the time, no witch or wizard ever likes to think he or she could be illegally sent to someplace as horrible as Azkaban. In those events, they saw themselves in me; they saw the things that could happen to them as they had happened to me. They saw Dumbledore playing Merlin with a man's life, ordering me about like I was a puppy dog. We use harsh punishments in our world, Harry, and we demand even harsher punishments when we find our confidence abused…"
"Oh." Harry didn't know what to think about Sirius' ranting version of an explanation. He'd been a member of the British Wizarding World for less than three months. "What can you tell me about my parents, Sirius?"
"Oh, Harry." Sirius' anger deflated as he struggled to stop laughing, to stop the tears of joy flowing down his face. "Harry, I could tell you stories for a month and a day and never scratch the surface. Let's start, though, at the beginning… I was a surly little sprog when I crawled on the Hogwarts Express…"
"…so, we find ourselves again at the end of term, young Master Potter. What do you have planned for the break?"
"Well, Headmaster, Sirius and I plan to take in some Quidditch. I saw a couple games last break and now we'll see a lot more. And go flying together. And quietly visit Black Manor in London before Sirius sells it off. He likes the Black Estate in County Cork much better. 'Fewer bad memories,' he says. Then I'm going with some friends from the Creatures Club to Romania. On the way back, I'm stopping in Bulgaria to speak with a woman who I've been corresponding with. She has a niece who is a metamorphmagus. I thought it might be helpful to speak with her."
Orion Murphy-Black just nodded. They were detailed, extraordinary plans he heard. Even on break, the young scholar continued to learn. Such a bright young man – what a brilliant future he held within his grasp.
"I take it your godfather is also going along?"
"I don't think I'd be able to leave his sight. He seems rather protective of me, sir."
"Oh, yes, I think his new found interest in warding is because of you, too. He wants to be prepared to help you. And wards can be some extremely lethal defenses…"
Harry looked thoughtful for a moment before he nodded.
"You will, of course, begin to have runes as an option in your first term next year, should you wish it. I'm sure your godfather would coach you along if you wanted, too…"
"I'll consider it, sir. Am I also to start taking Potions?"
"Yes. It will also be time to select your sciences, maths, and other subjects. Oh, and your languages. Will you continue on with French and Latin? Or add some new ones?"
"I will continue, sir. I'd like to be orally fluent in French and able to read better in Latin before I try anything else."
The Headmaster made notations on the paper in front of him.
"Oh, yes. I do have some information to impart, Mr. Potter. It seems there was an attempted theft at your old school. Your first Defence teacher perished a few days after you left school, and a new one began after the winter holidays. He just attempted to steal a valuable artifact from Hogwarts. Apparently the school was being used as a high security vault. From what I've pieced together, there were deadly animals (including a monstrous troll), deadly plants, poisons, charmed objects set to fly and impale trespassers, and some kind of animated chess board with an attitude. The teacher – who Dumbledore claimed was possessed by an evil spirit – was trapped in the final room of this security regime. And he starved to death over the course of five weeks. People were out looking for him, but your former Headmaster never thought to check his little vault area. Dumbledore's been thrown out of Hogwarts for 'conduct unbefitting a Headmaster.' Keeping personal trinkets under that kind of security – in a school with eleven year old children – that's just asking for trouble. And losing two teachers in a year because of the damned thing, it's unconscionable. Lockhart, his name was. Wrote a lot of trashy adventure stories. Died looking at his own reflection in a mirror, if the stories are true. Always struck me as quite a vain man."
"I'm sorry about what happened at Hogwarts, but I'm not sure why you're telling me, sir."
"Albus seems obsessed for some reason…obsessed with you, Harry. I think it best we teach you a few magical precautions – such as preventing owls from finding you when you're out of the school and obscuring your magical signature – and work with you to quickly train up your metamorphic talents. Now that he no longer has a job, I expect he may try to spend more time pulling you back to Britain…"
"Why won't he come over here, sir?"
"The Irish government has declared him persona non grata for his illegal conduct at the ICW less than a year ago. They also discovered a number of Potter Family possessions among his affects at Hogwarts. The Ministry of Magic will be sending a box along soon. I'm told there was an Invisibility Cloak and a Family Grimoire among the items, plus your mother and father's wands."
Harry nodded, only mildly confused.
"Why would he have my family's things?"
"He's not saying. I suspect he wanted to dole them out to you as rewards. Behave well for him and he'd hand you the cloak. Do his bidding and he'd give you your mother's old wand. It appeared that he had quite a few family possessions in his private rooms, for a large number of families with orphaned children. A lot of old family spellbooks and Grimoires. It seemed he never willingly returned those. He hoarded that knowledge for himself. They're being repatriated as we speak. The Ministry also found a few letters addressed to you that they'll be sending along."
Harry just felt numb. The old man had done horrible things to other children like Harry – and no one had noticed for years, for maybe decades. The British were imbeciles. Harry washed himself of them in that instant. He decided to even have Sirius write Gringotts and have all of his vaults and everything moved to Ireland. Apparently the goblins had a form of magic that allowed the entire vault to be moved without even opening it.
"Thank you, sir."
Harry and the Headmaster spent several more minutes discussing Harry's next term before Harry's curiosity got the better of him.
"Sir, back to your earlier story, what was the Professor – Lockhart, you said – attempting to steal?"
"Oh." The Headmaster laughed. "Nicholas Flamel's Philosopher's Stone."
"Sir, why's that funny? I've read something about it somewhere. It's supposed to be a powerful bit of alchemy. It can grant one…"
"Immortality, the story goes. Well, that story is a lie. The Philosopher's Stone is, very simply, the single greatest prank played in the last six hundred years."
Harry looked deeply skeptical.
"Oh, yes, the stone is but a bit of oddly shaped garnet, not even worth seven galleons on the open market. And Nicholas Flamel has been dead for five hundred twenty-three years. His children, grandchildren, and other descendents have kept the prank going. Nicholas left that as his dying wish – along with many, many years worth of the collected hairs off his head. They've been using Polyjuice all this time to make it seem like Nicholas was still alive. Every few years 'Nicholas' would start up a new written correspondence with someone in the wizarding world, then have a meeting every once in a while, just to prove he was still alive. I believe Dumbledore met with 'Flamel' four times over sixteen years and had a few dozen letters from him – and it features prominently on his Chocolate Frog card as a defining partnership in Dumbledore's career. Now, that's a truly incredible prank, isn't it?"
Harry couldn't stop laughing for a long time.
"Oh, yes, I'm one of the few people ever to discover the truth. I'm an honorary member of Clan Flamel because of it. Keep that to yourself, won't you, Harry?"
Albus Dumbledore was quite angry – and depressed. He'd gotten caught so many times this past year. No one had ever caught him out before. Now he was finished. He felt old – and useless – and weak.
That Scoil. The damned Irish. The unmerciful prigs at the ICW. None of them played by Albus Dumbledore's rules. 1) Albus got whatever he wanted because it was for the greater good. 2) People looked the other way at Albus' transgressions because Albus was a great man doing important work. 3) No one questioned Albus Dumbledore.
The rules no longer worked.
Albus no longer had political influence. He no longer had a school to run, children to mold. He was old and dead. His days of playing the greatest game in history were over.
He sobbed for a second. Harry Potter had been back in the wizarding world for less than a year and everything Albus had spent decades preparing was destroyed. The boy hadn't lifted more than a finger – he'd just left Hogwarts – and then the rest of the world fell on Albus' shoulders and crushed him. It wasn't fair.
He grumbled and stewed for a long time, then he seemed to undergo an almost physical transformation. He let go of the pity and the sense of worthlessness. He didn't have political power, true, but Albus was a powerful wizard, not as all-mighty as his reputation suggested, but powerful still.
He was back to being the Albus Dumbledore.
He had work to do. He had the Shrieking Shack to clean, as he couldn't go too far away from his school. He had Harry Potter to find and abduct. Now, it was a different story, the boy wouldn't be returning to Hogwarts. No, Albus would bind the boy to a ten-year Apprenticeship with him. That should do the trick.
Harry needed to learn. He needed to be strong, but not too strong. Not happy, but not beaten bloody and abused into worthlessness – somewhere in the middle. But most of all he needed to be humble. Selfless. Generous. Giving. Harry needed to willingly die for the light. That was critical. The world was lost if Harry Potter didn't willingly surrender his life.
And he wouldn't be willing if he kept on at that blasted Scoil. That had destroyed all of Dumbledore's plans.
Harry needed to be prepared. The Dursleys couldn't have been more perfect in their hatred of the boy. It had been exactly what was needed.
Now, it was all in ruins. Dumbledore began to plot. He had Harry Potter to mold into a willing sacrifice. The cogs in his mind began to spin.