Mage and Warrior

Summary: Harry Potter is overlooked as the boy-who-lived. Alone and neglected, young Harry discovers in the depths of Hogwarts a whole new world of knowledge, power and vision. Join him and his friends as they seek to bring back the times of the Mage and Warrior that once existed under Arthur and Merlin. HarryGinny, NevilleLuna, eventual DracoHermione.

Author's Note: My beta, mwinnike, joined me from Chapter 5 onwards. I intend to update the initial chapters eventually, but at the moment I am more focused on continuing the tale before the plot starts eluding me. Reviews and comments are always appreciated, and even more so when they contribute ideas on how to progress the tale.

Chapter 1 - Friends of a Mage

The son whines to his father, "You messed up my childhood!" And the father says, "How could I, son? I wasn't even there." - Anonymous

The Potters at Godric's Hollow were one big and happy family. Anyone who knew them, however slightly, thought the world of James and Lily Potter. They were kind, generous and caring people who deserved every bit of happiness they received. Having made a name for themselves as an Auror and an Unspeakable during the war, both husband and wife had since then retired into an easy and convenient life as professors in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

The respect brought by the Potter name had increased tenfold when their baby son Mat was proclaimed Boy Who Lived and defeated the Dark Lord Voldemort as a toddler, protecting the lives of not only his family, but the entire Wizarding world. Since then, the Potters were second in popularity to only the venerated Albus Dumbledore.

But behind the perfect world of the Potters, they hid a dark secret. A secret that threatened their happy and blemish-free existence - their eldest son, Harry Potter, the twin of the Boy Who Lived. At an early age, they had discovered Harry's darker abilities - parseltongue and natural occlumency.

For centuries the ministry had declared these abilities being the darkest of all magic, save the unforgivables and for the world to know this secret would be a terrible taint on the Potter name, the staunchest supporters of the light. Added to that was Dumbledore's worrying account of a prophecy surrounding Mat. And so they did their best to keep young Harry out of scrutiny and curb his desire for knowledge and magic, and to some extent they had succeeded. Harry Potter was a loner. He trusted no one and had no friends. But they failed to remove his desire for knowledge and though his access to material was restricted at home to merely muggle science and fiction, in Hogwarts he had access to a tremendous wealth of magical learning. A Ravenclaw through and through, Harry had found some semblance of happiness after his first year at Hogwarts with the wealth of knowledge that was available for him.

All his early life, Harry had lived under one rule - 'Stay away and be silent'. At first, he had trouble understanding why his mummy and daddy suddenly stopped loving him. But after several tearful nights, he had begun to accept the situation. He was an outsider in his own family. An outsider that received none of the warmth and love shared by the rest of the Potters. And so young Harry loved school more than most other children of his age. Hogwarts had been a welcome oasis in the desert of happiness in his life. But now, back at home for the summer, he fell back into depression. Compounding his woes, his brother's friends were staying over for a few weeks, and that made his loneliness even more stinging. They were staying until Mat's birthday. His birthday.

His birthday was usually the worst day of the year for him, the strongest indicator of not being wanted.

So many people from school had been invited - the Weasley brothers and their entire family, Granger and her parents, Thomas and his mother, the Patils - all of Mat's closest friends. This was so because Mat had somehow been involved in preventing Voldemort, who was discovered to be still alive but in a spirit form, from getting hold of the Philosopher's Stone to resurrect himself. By piecing together the clues, the Fabulous Five - Mat Potter, Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, Dean Thomas and Parvati Patil, had been able to warn the professors in a timely manner, and they stopped the Dark Lord from getting hold of the stone. As a reward, he was getting a huge party for his birthday.

Harry had noted his father's disappointment in him when he failed to do the things his brother was so good at - Quidditch, pranks and getting into trouble being the primary examples. According to Harry, all three were a waste of his time. Sure, after experiencing it, he loved flying, but Quidditch just seemed like a brainless sport to him as it had no impact on his knowledge or magical abilities. But unknown to everyone else, Harry had his own set of adventures when he accidentally discovered the entrance to a secret chamber. This chamber contained an even larger library than the one in Hogwarts with rare tomes of forgotten knowledge. He had kept his discovery a secret due to his need to use parseltongue in accessing the chamber, and also because it once belonged to Salazar Slytherin, notorious for his treatment of muggles.

But now back home and on his birthday, Harry spent the entire day in his room, ignoring the happy noises from his brother's party. He also ignored the fact that no one had bothered to check on him. Not even his mother.

Pulling out a book he had brought home from the chamber's library with its cover transfigured to that of an innocuous second year potions book, he spread it on his bed. The title had caught his eye - Animagus and Associated Myths. With much eagerness, Harry read the theory of human transfiguration to an animal, and the ability to do it wandlessly and wordlessly. He knew from the hints dropped by his parents and their friends that James was a stag Animagus and his best friend Sirius, incidentally Harry's godfather, was a dog Animagus. This sparked his desire to become one as well, not to follow in the footsteps of his father but to become better than him. This desire incidentally, drove much of Harry's pursuits - to become better than everyone who thought he would amount to nothing, and so he perused the book with great concentration.

The book was written in parseltongue and the text would appear like meaningless scrawls, lines and dots to those without the means to read or translate it. At first, Harry had been confused as to how parseltongue could be captured in writing but the book explained in its introduction of the runic script which could be deciphered only by parselmouths. The book also spoke about multiple animal forms being possible for a single wizard. Merlin the Mage was also known as the Beast Master for this very reason. Though, an integral aspect of this rare ability required parselmagic. This made Harry wonder about his parents' beliefs; if Merlin was a parseltongue himself then the ability could hardly be called dark when the wizard was widely held as the beacon of light.

The only difference between spells spoken in English or Latin when compared to parseltongue was its potency, or the power behind it. As an older and magical language, parseltongue was at one with magic and could unlock it to much greater potential. Not for nothing did some of the greatest wizards of all time, such as Merlin, Slytherin and Voldemort have the ability to speak in parseltongue. Questioning the differences between perceptions about dark and light, Harry picked up a torn piece of parchment where he had scribbled the first words he had read in Slytherin's own journal, 'There is no good and evil, only power and those too weak to seize it.'

Straining his memory, he could even recall the entire passage. His gift, as he had come to see it, rather than a curse he was initially led to believe it was, of natural occlumency, meant he could search his mind for anything he had heard, read or seen at any time. As a result, his schoolwork had always been of top quality. The passage, as he recalled was:

There is no good and evil, only power and those too weak to seize it. The muggles seek to remove the taint of witchcraft - Satan Worshipping as they perceive it, knowing that magic is more powerful than their own rudimentary weapons. If they secure the means to fight back, they will eventually succeed… for they have strength in their greater numbers. Where does that leave Wizardkind? Will we stand by and dig our heads in sand while they attain this power? Or will we stand up for our own place in this world, like Merlin beside Arthur - the golden age of Brittania, will it be restored? Will the world once again live in peace, harmony and prosperity under the just rule of Mage and Warrior? Or will we be too weak to seize it?

At first, Harry had been apprehensive about the jurnal after discovering notes on the margins labeled Lord Voldemort. But then, a sense of awe rose in him that he was at the very place where the Dark Lord acquired his superior skills. Horror changed to curiosity, and he banished all thoughts of abandoning his new library.

Putting the Animagus book down, Harry left his room to get a glass of water. Making sure no one would see him, as he always preferred, Harry was having a drink when he heard voices.

"But Lily, what about Mat's twin… Harvey, wasn't it?" he heard a female voice speak out from inside.

"Oh, Molly. Harry doesn't like things like that. He's happy upstairs with his books."

Harry narrowed his eyes in disgust. How could anyone know whether he liked something when he had never experienced it in the first place? But then, shrugging his shoulders, he returned to his room and started the process of turning into an Animagus. The book had several warnings against children under the age of twelve attempting it and that was why Harry had waited until his birthday to cast the spell.

While the commonly known process involved a person to prepare a potion to determine the form most compatible and then learn how to transfigure himself in bits and pieces until completely prepared, parselmagic enabled a person to call forth all forms that would answer to him, including magical creatures, though to transform into one would require tremendous effort. After that, the process was much the same. Although, aided by the stronger and faster parselmagic, transfiguration wouldn't take much long either. In all, a three year process could be shortened to a matter of minutes using parselmagic while at the same time making it more potent. Taking a deep breath, Harry closed his eyes and hissed the spell in parseltongue, "Ostendo Bestia."

Instantly, Harry felt a fog envelope his vision and he leaned back on his bed, his eyes closing. The next thing he knew, he was in a wide expanse of land in the middle of a valley, with tall mountains all around. The skies were a deep red, the color of dusk approaching, and Harry found himself in front of a patch of forest. For a moment, his heart lightened. He had never imagined a place as beautiful as this. Slowly, he walked and came near a narrow stream with several big stones nearby. Unsure of what he was supposed to do, he went to the widest stones and sat on it's edge.

It was at that instant that he heard several simultaneous sounds, though at first it appeared as a mesh of noise to him. The first source of noise became discernible to him as a rustle of leaves through the forest. It came suddenly and remained a constant as a second swishing sound, like whispers from the wind came above him. Third was a haunting melody from somewhere. And finally, the splashing of water. Within moments Harry was surrounded by several animals. In one corner, a grey coated wolf prowled menacingly. Next to him, a huge eagle landed on a stone with much grace. On a lake not far off, a long snake gracefully crawled out, shrinking in size as it came nearer. Finally, just beside him was a black and silver phoenix, a creature more beautiful than any other.

"Welcome to the realm of your mind! We are your Inner Beasts, those closest to your true nature," several voices spoke as one.

"I am a Dire Wolf, long extinct in the mortal plains. A more dangerous land predator you will not find, and we are one. Better senses, I give to you. You may name me."

Harry gaped at the wolf in awe as it moved closer to him. Tentatively, he reached out and stroked the fur. The wolf settled peacefully at Harry's feet and peered at him expectantly.

"Oh, right," Harry said, when the wolf didn't end his stare. "Name… Nighteyes?" The name was taken from a muggle fiction book he had been reading. It seemed apt, despite the green eyes of the wolf. The eyes were haunted, and Harry imagined not much different from his own. The wolf lowered his head between his paws in content.

"I am a Great Eagle, long extinct in the mortal plains. A Dire Wolf's natural enemy and predator of the winds, but we shall be one. Far sight and grace, I give to you. You may name me."

"I shall call you Swiftwing." The eagle flapped its wings appreciatively before settling down.

The snake slithered near Harry and crawled up his legs, and coiled around his waist, until it was face to face with the boy.

"I am a mythical water snake, never before seen in the mortal plains. You have brought me into existence with your unique life. I live in water and earth, and am long and short, thin and fat. Self-morphing and agility, I give to you. I am Astika, and Astika is you."

"I… I called you into existence? What does that mean?" Harry asked in astonishment.

The snake crawled further up and coiled itself around Harry's neck loosely. "Your inner beasts are stranger than an ordinary mortal's, for you are anything but ordinary," was all the snake would say.

The phoenix gently flew in a loop around Harry and landed on his shoulder, careful not to hurt the snake.

"I am a lightning phoenix, rarely seen in the world of men and wizards. I am power, and power I give to you."

"And what shall I call you?" Harry asked the magnificent bird, overwhelmed by the power radiating off it.

"I am Harold."

When Harry woke up, he wasn't surprised to find that several hours had passed. He was even less surprised to find that nobody had noticed him missing. The party was over, and the guests were leaving from what he could make out. Shutting his book and placing it carefully at the back of his trunk, Harry changed into his pajamas and fell asleep.

The rest of the summer passed like a breeze. Harry had managed to successfully transform into his snake form as it was the easiest to practice in his room. As Astika, Harry loved the freedom he had over his body - changing its size, texture and color. To his amazement, he discovered he could do the same even in his human form. Since the Potters never had any history of metamorphmagi abilities in the family, he gathered that was Astika's doing. He loved playing around with his features, especially since it allowed him to get rid of his family inheritance. He realized that if he changed himself gradually little by little, and kept it in place permanently, then in a few years he could have a whole new appearance, and nobody would realize the difference.

The last week of summer came and the Potters were preparing to go to Diagon Alley. Approaching his parents, Harry requested if he could go with them.

"Why do you want to go?" James asked suspiciously, putting his newspaper away. But before he could say anything else, Lily silenced him with a strange look and nodded.

Somewhat surprised, Harry raced upstairs to get into a decent set of muggle clothes, and grabbed his savings of five galleons. Repressing a sigh at the disparity in the allowance between him and his brother, Harry pocketed the gold. At least his parents didn't prevent him from acquiring his expensive wand, despite the wand maker's string of curiousesHaving gotten used to show gratitude for small things had made him look at the adult Potters not as his parents, but as guardians who were forced to looking after him reluctantly.

Much to his wonder, he heard a knock and his mother stepped in to his room. Both looked at each other unsure of how to proceed. Harry - since he had never had anyone in his room, save house elves, for a long time; and Lily, because she hadn't had an intimate conversation with her eldest child for the same duration.

"Harry," she said with some uncertainty, approaching him. "Can we talk?"

Nodding slowly, Harry beckoned her to the bed beside him.

"Harry… I regret what has happened between us. There is no excuse for a mother to neglect one child over another." She looked pleadingly at her eldest son, and continued on receiving no reply, "What can I do to make up?"

With a deep intake of air, Harry narrowed his eyes. "Why now? Why after six years? What changed?"

Lily looked at him sadly. "It's been coming for a while. For what it's worth, I'm sorry. I really am. I can't forgive myself for neglecting you so much. I… I can't sleep at nights."

Harry glared at his mother, but spoke in a low voice which was almost a sharp hiss. "You can't sleep at night? Have you thought about me? A six year old not sure why his mummy and daddy suddenly hated him? A seven year old waiting for his birthday cake and presents, and receiving nothing but a cold stare? An eight year old staring wide-eyed as his family left him behind when going for picnics. A nine… No! You didn't care all this while. Not at home and not in Hogwarts. Why now? Tell the truth."

Lily's eyes began watering up as she nearly sobbed her reply, "I miss my baby. I want to know you, Harry. On your birthday, Molly Weasley asked me about you, and I… I realized I didn't know you at all. I didn't know who your favorite Quidditch team was, or if you even liked the sport. Your favorite color, your favorite food, your favorite subject, whether you like your dad as a professor, whether you'd like to join my class. All I know is that you're a top student in every subject except Defense and Potions. But nothing about you as a person. I don't know you at all. It was wrong of us… of me… to judge you as a child."

Harry stared at her with a frown for several long seconds. "What do you intend now? You can't change the past."

Sniffing, Lily looked down, unable to meet her son's eye anymore, the same intense green as her own. "I want to buy you a birthday present. Anything you want. I know it wont make up for anything but… and some new robes. Above all, I want to spend more time with you, if you're willing."

"Just me and you?" Harry asked strangely, a tightness in his throat.

Lily darted her head upwards, hope rising in her eyes. "Yes," she said with emotion. "Yes, honey. Just you and me." She reached out and with hesitation, touched her son's cheek.

With a strange sound, Harry leapt backwards and mustering as much control as he could, managed to cast a silencing charm before he shouted, "You think you can just say sorry and everything will be all right again. Well, THINK AGAIN! For years I had convinced myself not to care! Now, you can't just come back! YOU CAN'T CARE!" Tears streaming from his eyes, he went on, "How do I know you wont go back again? Push me away because of something else that makes you think I'm evil. You can't just come and pretend as if nothing had happened! You can't. You can't."

As he finished his tirade, he had curled into a ball on the floor and was crying unabashedly, years of stifled grief, longing and loneliness coming out all at once. As he cried, he didn't notice a pair of arms come around him. He didn't even recall resting his head on his mother's shoulder. It was only when he felt a dampness on his ears did he realize his mother was crying just like him, and he was in her embrace. And then it didn't matter. He tightened his hold as his tears stopped.

After several minutes, he let go and whispered, "I can't forget, and I can't change what I have become in these last few years. But I'm willing to start over with you. Can you accept that?"

Lily nodded frantically, eager to get what little she could. "I promise I will never abandon you again. No matter what."

"Not even if I become the very thing you feared in the first place?" Harry asked softly.

Lily trained her eyes on him and resolutely declared, "No." And Harry knew she meant it.

"A pet," he finally said after silence had lingered on for a while.

"What?" Lily asked in bemusement.

"You said I can have a birthday present. You said anything I wanted," he said accusingly. "I want a pet."

Chuckling finally, a sound which made Harry smile, Lily leaned forward and kissed her son's forehead. "Only one?"

"One will do," Harry replied with a small grin. Perhaps things could get better, but then his smile faltered. When his mother raised an eyebrow, he said, "What about father and Mat?"

"When did you stop calling him dad and revert to father? And what do you think of me as? Mum or mother?" Lily asked with a frown. She realized that nothing would change her actions, but pretending she had never wronged her son could only make things worse. An understanding needed to reach between them and for that they would need to be open.

"Not sure. Sometime before Hogwarts started. I stopped thinking of you as my parents and rather as some sort of guardians," Harry said with a shrug. "I used mother for you but I'd like to go back to mum again, if you don't mind."

"I'd like that. About them… we could take things as they come. I admit, James is still… well, let's just take things as they come and get to know each other better first, all right?"

Harry nodded and they proceeded to tidy themselves up a bit before leaving for Diagon Alley.

Diagon Alley was a wonderful place. The last time he had seen it was as a six year old, before the snake incident and to see it at twice the age brought a whole new perspective. The Potters were waiting for the Weasleys and Hermione Granger at the Leaky Cauldron, when Lily asked Harry to follow her to Madam Malkin's. Asking Harry what kind of robes he wanted, he went for a simple emerald green and a blue and bronze to match his house colors.

Then they went to the pet store where Harry found a snowy white owl, which seemed pleased to see him. Naming her Hedwig, he carried her along in a cage and happily trotted off besides his mother talking about Ancient Runes, the subject she taught in Hogwarts. Lily was surprised by the depth of knowledge her son had, easily enough to secure an O in his OWLs. Once again she felt guilty aboutt the way she had treated him just as they joined the rest of their family outside Flourish & Botts.

James Potter and Arthur Weasley were involved in a scuffle with Lucius Malfoy and some dark haired man beside him. Frowning, Lily strode forward to mediate while Harry ambled reluctantly to his brother, who was in his own private tiff with Draco Malfoy. Both were without their usual supporters, though Mat was standing next to a pretty red-haired girl.

"Bet you loved that, didn't you, Potter?" Draco sneered at Mat. Harry groaned, having had his fair share of run-ins with the Malfoy heir. "Famous Mat Potter. Can't even go to a bookshop without making the front page."

"Leave him alone, he didn't want all that!" the redhead girl interjected furiously, and Harry gazed at her curiously.

"Potter, you've got yourself a girlfriend!" drawled Malfoy with a gleam, making Ginny go scarlet.

Mat balked. "Don't be ridiculous, Malfoy. Why would I want her as a girlfriend when I could easily have Cho or Parvati?"

Harry sighed at the insensitivity of his brother who didn't even notice the girl's horrified expression as she moved away. Shaking his head, he followed after her into a quiet corner of the bookshop. He walked past the Wizard History collection to Wizard Customs, before he found her.

"You know, I think you're a bit too young to be interested in muggle and wizard marriage customs," Harry said lightly, gazing at the section they were at.

The teary-eyed girl abruptly turned to see Harry and squinted her eyes. "Who are you? What do you want?"

Sighing, Harry raised his hands in a placating manner. "I wish to apologize for my brother's insensitivity. I'm Harry Potter."

"Oh," the girl said, staring at him. "I didn't know he had a brother. I'm Ginny Weasley, by the way."

"Nice to meet you, Ginny," Harry said softly. "It's not your fault. Most people fail to look beyond Matthew Potter to see his less notable twin. It's not as if we look anything alike."

"Twin!" she hissed angrily, though not directed at Harry. "We were at the party! How come I didn't see you? It was your birthday too."

"I don't really like a fuss over things. You know," Harry explained though inside he felt somewhat pleased that a stranger would get so worked up on his behalf, "It's easier without all the limelight."

She nodded but didn't appear completely convinced. "Thanks."

And they both walked back to their families, though Harry stopped to get the additional book he had wanted to buy. Mindscape, by Cillian Gutterstone. As a natural occlumens, he had been aware of attempts by the Headmaster and the Potions Master in reading his mind, although unsuccessfully. With this books he would be able to put their unwarranted attacks to his own advantage. When he picked the book, Lily had joined him and looked questioningly at the title but put it in her pile anyway, refusing to let Harry pay off his own allowance.

When they finished and joined the rest, Mat seemed a bit put off on seeing the owl in Harry's hands but didn't say anything after noting the warning glance on his mother's face. James also looked as if he had some comments but kept them in check. Soon they were back in Godric's Hollow and Harry promptly took off to his room and freed Hedwig.

"You know, I don't know why I got you. It's not as if I have anyone to write to. Guess it was more for companionship than as a post owl. You okay with that, girl?"

In response, the owl hooted and flew to his shoulder.


The remainder of the holiday had been rather surreal for Harry. His mother would spend several hours everyday chatting with him. They had discovered a common interest in Ancient Runes and would debate on several issues, often late into the night. Lily was beginning to get highly impressed by her son's knowledge, some of which she was sure came from beyond the Hogwarts Library. But she didn't question him as their relationship was still a bit fragile. Sometimes at night, Harry could feel her check on him and each time she did so, a smile would light up on his face. It was heartening to have his mother back even though it put a halt on his Animagus training. He had decided to keep that on hold until he could return to the stone chamber that had become his private lair. He couldn't risk letting her know just yet. She had to earn his trust.

On the last day of their vacation there had been some trouble with a rogue house elf that had threatened and seemingly attacked his brother. Harry wasn't so sure about it. From Mat's first rendition of the story, it seemed more of a warning than a threat. But he kept his silence. Finally, the day of departure dawned and Harry Potter was in the platform. He bid goodbye to his mother with a grin, knowing that she would be apparating to Hogsmeade, and proceed to the school a few hours before the students would arrive. Pulling his trunk into an empty compartment, Harry got his new book out and started reading. Hearing some voices outside, he strained his ears to catch Ron telling Ginny to leave him alone and find her own friends. Frowning, Harry opened his door to see the girl standing alone and uncertain of what to do. With a smile, he beckoned her in, and helped her with the heavy trunk.

Soon, they were joined by more people. First came Neville Longbottom from Harry's year, a Gryffindor who didn't fit with his own housemates, being timid and shy by nature. Harry had rarely talked with him and didn't have any reason to refuse when he asked if he could enter. Next came a pretty blonde girl with a dazed look in her silvery eyes. Harry wondered in his mind at this motley collection of misfits in one cabin. Shaking his head, he returned to his book.

After several interesting chapter, he realized that Luna was engrossed in a detailed explanation of something that sounded like crumple-horned snorkaks, making Neville rather alarmed, while Ginny was holding back a guffaw.

"… and you only see them in summer time."

Seeing Harry's attention waver from his book, Ginny smiled at him. "That book must be really interesting. You've been staring at it for so long."

"Yes," Harry said, with a momentary pang of guilt at ignoring her. "It's about understanding your mind and strengthening its defenses."

"Why would you need that?" Ginny asked in bemusement.

Harry considered. He couldn't tell her about his being a natural occlumens as it would raise eyebrows at him. So he settled for, "It's good to be prepared, isn't it? Plus it helps in concentration and improving your memory. So there's really no harm."

That caught the attention of Neville. He hesitated before asking, "C… could you perhaps teach us a bit? If you don't mind, that is?" Ginny was nodding profusely, and even Luna seemed somewhat interested.

Frowning, Harry observed them keenly. Without intending to, he sent his awareness towards them and was startled to find thoughts in his head that weren't entirely his own. This was one use of his ability he hadn't utilized until then.

Luna was extremely interested, though she didn't want to get her hopes up too high for fear of rejection. She wanted to recollect her memories of her mother more clearly. Neville's was somewhat similar. His parents had been tortured to insanity and he hardly remembered them. Behind it was also a desire to improve his academics so he wouldn't be ridiculed as often. Ginny was the one who surprised him most. From her, he felt an overwhelming desire to acquire knowledge and achieve greater accolades than her brothers. She desired power and almost reminded Harry of himself. Not quite, but there were faint similarities.

Shaking his head clear, he nodded after considering. "All right. We'll start properly once we settle down in school. For now, I'll just teach you the basics of meditation and clearing your mind."

After an hour, when they approached closer to Hogwarts, the four of them changed into their school robes and got ready. Harry, for the first time in his life felt a surge of hope. Not only was his mother showing such affection, but he also had Hedwig as a friend and perhaps a few more as well. Time would tell.

As they were leaving, Harry beckoned Ginny aside. His brief view of her mind had left no doubt that she would be a top consideration for Slytherin house,and he didn't want her to have to deal with the intricacies and politics of being a Slytherin.

"You know, if the Hat wants to put you somewhere you don't want to be in, just say no. Ask nicely for an alternative, explaining why it would be a bad house for you."

"Why are you telling me this?" Ginny asked with a frown, but didn't receive any response.

Inside the Great Hall, Harry found himself a secluded seat in the Ravenclaw table and waited as the sorting commenced. The song was much the same as his own year, the same content in different words. Finally, it was over and the first years were being sorted. Harry stifled a laugh of disgust when Creevey, Colin made a beeline to Mat with a camera in his hands.

Letting his attention wander, he noticed his mother observe him sitting alone with a saddened expression. Meeting her eyes, he smiled. But then he straightened up when it was Luna's turn. The Hat took less than a minute to declare "RAVENCLAW!" and Harry cheered loudly, the first time he had done so all evening. With her unchanging dreamy expression, Luna took off the hat and walked to the Ravenclaw table. Ignoring the prefect's words, she went straight to Harry and sat next to him.

"Congrats, Luna! It's good to have you here," Harry said, fully meaning it. Looking up, he saw his mother smirk at him which he pointedly ignored.

Soon after, Ginny was the last student to be sorted. The moment she put the hat on her head, her expression became one of horror, and Harry could imagine the gist of what the Hat might be saying. He held his breath, willing her to not be in Slytherin. He had heard hints and rumors about what happened in the dorms to girls not considered worthy enough of the house's supposed nobility. Slytherin himself would have been aghast at knowing the state of his house.

Harry watched in fascination as Ginny's expression became more and more determined as the minutes ticked by. Finally, in a reluctant tone the Hat shouted, "RAVENCLAW!" and Harry applauded, feeling happy. It was more than he could have hoped for, expecting her to desire Gryffindor. The redhead did a repeat of Luna's act and soon was seated on the other side of Harry, who was frowning at his openly smirking mother. He ignored the looks he was receiving from his father and brother and dug at his food.

Mid way through the food, Ginny looked seriously at Harry and said, "Thanks. That's three I owe you."


"First, for coming after me in Flourish & Botts, then in the train, and now for the advice about the Hat. It wanted to put me in Slytherin."

Harry nodded, taking a sip of his pumpkin juice. "I'm surprised you didn't go to Gryffindor. I would have assumed with your brothers there, you might have preferred it."

"Yeah, right," Ginny said sardonically. "Brothers - one of whom can't picture me anything other than a three year old baby. Two others who would rather turn my hair pink than talk to me. And finally, a third who would rather lecture me on the expectations of a Hogwarts students... so, no thank you if I'd rather come to a house with my only friend."

At her words, Harry drew a sharp breath in and stared at her.

"We are friends, aren't we?" Ginny asked in slight trepidation.

Harry nodded slowly, making the redhead smile. "I've never had friends before. Nobody has ever wanted to know me."

"Me neither. Good thing we found each other," then turning to Luna who was staring at her food in silence, "And you too, Luna. We haven't really gotten to know each other, but if Harry's willing, we could all three be friends?"

"Yes," Harry concurred. "I'd like that."

For the first time since he'd met her earlier that day, Harry saw the vacant expression on Luna's face dwindle somewhat and she looked at them gratefully. "I'd like that too."

The rest of the meal passed in relative peace and the Ravenclaws moved to their dorms for the night. Harry sat in a fat armchair in the blue and silver adorned common room in the Ravenclaw Tower with his book. He waited until his dorm mates had all retired for the night. Michael Corner and Anthony Goldstein having left first. Terry Boot stayed back and had a short conversation with Harry before leaving as well. As the common room emptied and Harry was the sole person left, not an unusual event from his first year, he calmly opened the portrait door and without a second thought, marched towards the second floor girl's toilet.

He had almost reached there when he heard a noise from just behind him.

"We shall catch them tonight, my sweet," came the sickening voice of Argus Filch, the caretaker. "Our traps be all laid in place for these beastie students."

Traps, Harry mused. But before he could think more, a big jet of light shot towards him. Ducking, he let his instincts take over and falling back to the shadows, he changed into Astika, small and thin. He slithered into the girl's toilet before the caretaker came in view.

"Blasts, false alarm," Filch cursed, as Harry, or rather Astika, opened the secret entrance and slithered in, morphing into a rather large snake to travel faster.

Reaching the chamber and back in his human form, Harry breathed a sigh of relief. He was at home. Walking to the back of the open and cold stone chamber, he reached for the comfortable and warm library, a secret within a secret and settled on the arm chair, opening the journal in which he was noting down his own achievements. He wrote about his Animagus forms and the way they had appeared to him. After finishing, he left the library and returned to the open area to practice on another form. For some reason, he decided to keep the phoenix until the end, and started with Nighteyes. Several hours later, and only partly successful, Harry reverted back to Astika and slithered to Ravenclaw Tower, to his dorm.