Sorry about my loooooong silence. I have no excuse, but now I am writing again and I felt this might be nice to give you all to tide you over until I have a real chapter.
Thank you all for your wonderful reviews! They've been making me think, and I have had to rearrangea few things to allow for the odd scrambling in my brain pan. So that being said, short chapter, but the answer to a very important question most of you had about what Harry was going to do.
Neville sighed as Harry griped at him. It had been happening on and off since the elder of the two informed the younger that he would be returning to Hogwarts in the fall.
"Why, oh why? Has something physically happened to your brain? Are you deficient in some way that I never cottoned on to?" Harry jumped from hedge to cobblestone path, right in front of Neville, making the boy stop.
"Harry, I know you've been on the fence about this, but I haven't been." Neville took a deep breath and continued. "I am the last male Longbottom, I will inherit my father's titles. There is a certain amount of responsibility that comes with that, and since I can home school normal classes I won't really be missing out on anything. If I didn't go to Hogwarts I would be neglecting hundreds of years of tradition, and that's something, in good conscious, I can't do."
It went unsaid that Harry was in the same boat. As the last Potter he had the same responsibilities that Neville had just thrust in his face. Really it was all about networking. If Harry didn't go to Hogwarts he wouldn't meet the same future decision makers of their government, he wouldn't have all the inside information because he wouldn't be there to collect. He wouldn't really know all of the traditions because he'd have to learn them out of books, and that wasn't the same as learning from peers and the teachers that were provided at Hogwarts.
And Harry had been on the fence with his decision to return to Hogwarts. He missed his regular school and classmates, he missed getting tutored by Remus and coming up with just outlandish ideas, being indulged enough that he could basically abandon all else until those ideas came to fruition or crashed and burned. He was a very hands on learner, a lot of Hogwarts curriculum was by rote instead of discovery. There was nothing that said he couldn't work on his own, but it was harder without an indulgent Remus, or a pointedly intelligent Lara helping him.
On the other hand, he had made a lot of friends in Hogwarts, ones he found himself missing when he woke up in the morning and realized he wouldn't see them that day. Neville was always the exception to that, but what was he going to do when he woke up this fall and realized that Neville was no longer just a phone call away?
He could hear her squeal of delight coming from a mile away. The tight hug that she glomped him with he took with a (faked) air of exasperation. In reality though, he was happy to see her too.
Lara watched the kids as they gathered in their huddle, Harry, Hermione, Neville. The adults indulgently allowed them the time to catch up, as they were shooed away from the middle of Diagon Alley.
Hermione proudly told Harry of the martial arts classes she stumbled upon while they vacationed extensively in Italy, of the projects she had theorized while unable to practically apply, of the support she had gotten from her local school as she set up her classes for home study. Harry listened and added suggestions that could help some of her ideas along, and quietly informed her that they could probably find materials for most of her hopes in the Alley as they shopped for school supplies.
The parents decided to stop for some coffee and a quick chat while the kids took it upon themselves to scout out the alley and do some preliminary purchases.
"So I met these guys in Italy, they took some martial arts classes with me, and I saw them jumping around the parking lot like monkeys, you know, like you've been training me? Sometimes they called it Parkour, other times free-running. I didn't want to sound like a moron, so I didn't ask. What's the difference?"
Harry grinned, just knowing that there were no "How-to Parkour" books in the library.
"To tell you the truth, I didn't really understand myself that there was a difference until I talked with some guys in Poland a few years ago," Harry admitted. He'd just followed his aunt on her training runs and picked up multiple ways to get over objects that she just jumped, considering how much smaller he was than her. He'd found more information by accident on-line, and stumbled across the Parkour nuts, like Kong, in Poland.
"You see Hermione, Parkour was invented as a way to get from point A to point B in as little time as possible. If that meant jumping over stuff or climbing it, if that was more efficient, then that's what it took. Free-running is the same basic concept, but doing it in a flashy way, by flipping over an object instead of just jumping it, or tumbling across a wall instead of just running next to it. Got the difference?"
"So that's why you have me practicing gymnastics all the time? Because you like showing off?"
"It takes more strength in your entire body to free-run. You have to have more upper body strength to haul your body into flips, or force your entire length into a no hand cartwheel. You get it? We're becoming lean, mean, ass kicking, magic making machines! By the time we're through with Hogwarts we'll be intelligent, healthy and more than inordinately talented. I think we're training ourselves right into what ever future we want!"
"And what future is that for you, may I ask, Harry Potter?"
"It can't be HARRY POTTER!" The little group of preteens were shocked into a standstill as they entered the bookstore.
"Um, yes it can," Harry muttered in confusion as he noted the huge crowd that was stuffed in Flourish and Blotts all turning to look at him. A man with an inordinate number of pearly white teeth shoved his way through the crowded shop and grabbed for Harry's arm. Unfortunately he overextended and missed when Harry spun agilely out of his way, hiding behind Neville as the older gentleman hurriedly righted himself. They ended up playing ring-around the Neville for several minutes as Hermione giggled to herself and asked the cashier to put together enough school packets for the three of them. It was obvious, to her at least, that they'd interrupted a book signing and with all the press around Harry wasn't going to want to stay for very long.
"If you could just have them delivered to Croft Manor, put them on our tabs please?"
"Of course Miss. Granger," came the unruffled reply. "Now if you could get young Mr. Potter away so I can get rid of this pop-in-jay author, I'd appreciate it."
"Certainly Mr. Flourish, I'll do my best," of course then she tuned into whatever it was the annoying author was saying and blanched. "That loudmouth is going to be our Defense Teacher?"
"I'm afraid so young Miss," he shrugged. "I'd recommend that you not buy more than you need, so between the three of you I'll just send one set of his, ahem, "required reading" shall I?"
"Please. I don't want to spend any more money on that man then I have to."
They managed to exit the bookstore without a photo op between Mr (ahem, Professor) Lockhart and Harry that he seemed to so desperately want.
"Bet you just loved that, didn't you Potter?" Malfoy smirked as Harry took a deep breath of clean air.
"I think that man bathes in Violet oil," Harry remarked, completely ignoring Draco's taunt. He was dizzy, short of breath, and not feeling very well at all. He coughed out a plume of purple smoke and nodded. "Yep, Violets… I think I'm going to be sick," and with that announcement Neville, who'd known Harry the longest and knew when he wasn't being facetious, backed away from his friend. Unfortunately Draco didn't take the warning to heart and stepped closer, just in time for Harry's lunch to be deposited all over the front of his robes. Straightening a bit as Draco stood there, completely stunned, Harry managed a slightly sheepish apology before declaring, "And now I think I'm going to pass out." while tipping back and directly into Neville's arms.
I fudged the timeline a bit. I know that the group hadn't gone to diagon alley for school supplies until maybe the week before school, but i am placing this about a month before hogwarts starts up again. Harry and Lara are going to bond a little in the next chapter and I want time to deal with that. So no complaints about my times being wrong!