Here it is, the first part of the next chapter in the story. Things are changing and Xander's plan is starting to fall into place. I hope you enjoy.

Story – Renegade Master: Maelstrom

Beta – Daisy Brand

Author – Evilclone

Chapter – Prologue

Book – 3

Children, you must remember something. A man without ambition is dead. A man with ambition but no love is dead. A man with ambition and love for his blessings here on earth is ever so alive.

- Pearl Bailey

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The House that Lockhart Bought

… … … … … … … … … … … … …

The Journey back to Platform Nine and Three Quarters was relatively peaceful. Draco and his posse were leaving them in peace, and many of the younger students avoided the cabin. Most of it was due to the fear that surrounded him - a very stark message had been given that year - while some of it was due to Shadow influence. He kept up his powers without much drain on his being and redirected any eager students who wanted an autograph.

When the train began slowing down, they started packing their gear away while Xander changed into Muggle clothing in an attempt to look as normal as possible. They departed quickly and the kids met with their families. While all the hugging was going on, Xander used the moment to quietly slip away; the last thing he needed at that moment was to be caught up with the emotion.

He left the platform and strolled at a leisurely pace to met Vernon; the large overpowering man had a slight smirk on his face. "Where're the rest the freaks?"

"The other families are back at the platform. Let's go; I don't want any scenes made," Xander said sharply. Vernon grunted in agreement. They made their way to the car without much fuss. Whilst still on the train, Xander had used a Shrinking Spell to make everything fit into his pocket, leaving the only heavy piece his owl.

He thanked Vernon for picking him up upon their home, and said hello to Petunia; the older woman nodded stiffly before turning back to her cleaning. The new abode was much better than the last one. It was based on his home in Sunnydale. The home wasn't a three up and a three down, it was merely a three up and it had magical wards placed around it that would warn him of any imminent attack; at least that way he would have some sort of early warning signal. He had the topmost level of the house to himself; this way he was secluded from the rest of the Dursleys and prying eyes of the neighbours. As soon as he had contacted him, he had asked Dobby to once again put up wards to protect him from the Ministry's traces, although Xander wasn't exactly sure how that worked, seeing as he was basically a man in a boy's body.

However, it didn't matter; he didn't want to take any chances.

He pulled his shrunken possessions out of his pocket, shrugged off his clothes, and took off his glasses. He was going to have to sort that out. For the moment though, he decided he would acquire some of contact lenses, he could then claim he was wearing those, instead of nothing, since he didn't really need them. The trouble was, as it would be for some time now was Hermione, she was simply too perceptive, always spotting things, even little things, and blowing them all out of proportion. It was no wonder Harry had felt at odds with her.

He went into the bathroom, not really bothered with anyone catching a glimpse of his naked flesh, and turned on the shower. When it was hot enough, he stepped in and let the scalding droplets run over his skin. He liked showering; the feeling of the water washing away the day's dirt. He turned it off and stepped out into the bathroom, remembering as he did so that the Indians used to think that when a body died in the cold, the steam was the spirit running away from body. He smirked, thinking that his was running away with speed. Getting dressed, he went to Hedwig and let her out of her cage; she flew out of the open window, hooting in gratitude as she went off in search of something to eat.

She returned later that evening and hooted happily as she rested on her perch. Xander walked over and scratched her ears and gave her a treat, for which she gratefully pecked his fingers.

The next day, he received news from Gilderoy via owl. It was a very pompous looking creature that hooted unkindly at Hedwig, receiving what sounded like a snotty response from her. He took the letter from the owl, gave it a treat and paid it. He then scribbled out a response and attached it to her leg; the owl looked Hedwig up and down and flew off.

"Don't worry," Xander scratched Hedwig's ears, "I wouldn't swap you. Besides, you're much better looking."

The owl hooted in agreement.

Dobby came and went as he was needed, and at around three o'clock he appeared with a 'pop!'.

"Master Lockhart tells Dobby that Harry Potter's house is ready for inspection." The house elf bowed its head.

"Okay, Dobby, let's go."

Xander stood next to Dobby and the elf clicked its fingers and with another "pop!" the duo vanished into thin air.

The site that greeted him was stunning; the main entrance area was a whole place on its own. Gilderoy walked in wearing casual slacks and a shirt and flashed another of his winning smiles. Judging from the stunned look on Xander's face, he'd done a good job; obviously he aimed to please Harry Potter, the kid had already made him lots of money, after all.

If he thought the entrance was big, he was in for a shock; the living room was bloody massive. In it, there were paintings all over the walls of various people, all who moved about. Some waved while others simply sat on stalls or snored away. The rest of the house was just as big, comprising of sixteen master bedrooms, one specifically designed for his needs, complete with fireplace for travel, and a large mirror for communication. The others all had en-suite bathrooms, which were just as big as the rooms themselves.

When they were done, they ended up in the kitchen where a female house elf was busy with various pots and pans that were either boiling or cooking different foods. The smell made Xander's stomach grumble. The house elf was wearing a clean white pillow case that covered her sufficiently; she noticed their arrival and bustled forward and bowed so close to the ground her nose touched it.

"Dibby is sorry sirs; Dibby did not expect Masters Potter and Lockhart to be arriving so soon." She kept her head bowed as she talked.

"That's okay, Dibby, you were working hard." Xander looked to Dobby, the house elf he had freed, and saw him standing with his tea cosy on his head and assortment of other clothes, with an expression on his face akin to reverence.

"Dobby told Dibby, Master Harry and Lockhart liked house elves, but Dibby did not believe Dobby."

Xander blinked in confusion, but after a moment of brain loss, understood what the house elf was saying.

"Dobby, you are correct," Xander said kindly. "From now on, you will call me Harry, and you will not bow to me or my guests." He looked at Lockhart. "I assume you've told her about her wage?"

The house elf squeaked loudly and started wringing her ears and howling in pain. Xander's hand was out quickly with his wand, a movement Lockhart hadn't expected. He was suddenly glad he hadn't crossed the kid. Thin green ropes shot out of the end of the wand and tied themselves expertly around her hands, locking them behind her back. The elf squeaked and tried to break free. Even Dobby looked stunned by this act, and went to flick his fingers.

"No, Dobby," said Xander firmly. The elf twitched and looked confused, but Xander continued. "I want Dibby to know that there will be no punishments in this household, there will be payments, and if I say so, you will have time off."

The elf shivered in her bonds.

"Do you understand?"

"Yes, Master Potter."

Xander grimaced. "And another thing. You will call me Harry, no Master, just Harry. When I take these bonds of you will not punish yourself, do you understand?"

She nodded. With an expert flick of the wrist, the ropes vanished and she found herself free once more.

"Now, how long till dinner," Xander asked.

"Half an hour, sirs…"

Xander stomach growled on queue.

… … … … … … … … … … … … …

"Where have you been?"

"Away at a house I bought recently…"

Dudley looked at Xander suspiciously to see if he was telling the truth or not. The boy was a lot fatter than the year before, but due to the boxing lessons he was taking, he was able to use that weight against an opponent.

"How did you buy this house?"

"I used a wizard to use the money I have in my inheritance. I'm not old enough to buy the house myself, so I used a proxy."

Dudley struggled with the words. "What's a proxy?"

"Someone who stands in for me until I'm of age."

It was strange to get such forthcoming answers from Dudley, there was no fear in his eyes or anger, no hatred at being stuck in the household; it was most refreshing.

"Okay," Dudley nodded. "Thank you."

He turned on his heel and walked out of the room, leaving his cousin in peace. Xander smirked and thought to himself that that had gone a lot easier than before. Perhaps the two of them were starting to grow up.