Warning – English is not my first language and I have no beta right now, so if you see some mistakes let me know what and where they are. If you don't see them, go find a pair of glasses or an English vocabulary or grammar books, because you're either blind or ignorant. Hell, there are probably some mistakes in this warning! Or maybe in this last sentence… or in this one… or in this one… or in this one… I think you got it.
Disclaimer – If by reading this story, you find elements that are similar and/or about something you wrote, then you are either JKR (who owns the Harry Potter Universe by the way) or another fanfiction author who I chose to compliment, criticize or mock somewhere in here. Enjoy.
Chapter 6 – A Dog and His Owner... But Don't Tell Neither!
The circle of Acromantulas collapsed on Harry Potter with surprising speed, pincers clicking in dangerous snaps and legs moving in a frantic scampering. Even as he was starting to get back in human form, Sirius Black knew it was too late. He let out a loud whimper that during the transformation turned into a strangled cry, as he assisted atthe assault against his Godson taking place beneath him.
And then the first line of spiders started flying away in all directions, occasionally hitting the tree branches and then dropping to the ground. Some of them tried to stand up right away only to wobble down immediately, while others simply landed on their backs and no matter how much they trashed their long legs, they couldn't turn over.
Harry had still to move from his spot, but held both wands raised at the ready against the nearest Acromantulas, now a little wary of attacking.
"I gave you a little time. Now get your ass down here, Sirius," he said without looking at him, a grin still on his face. "If you want a little fun, that is."
Sirius closed his mouth shut, pulled out his wand, generously given himby the Ministry, and stumbled down from that terrace of sort, determined to reach his Godson and kick his ass back to Hogwarts. He recklessly jumped the last five feet and landed unbalanced on soft soil and then on his face. When he got up again, spitting mold and leaves everywhere, Harry was expertly dodging a lot of furious spiders, their pincers clicking continuously. The boy almost seemed to dance between the huge creatures, rolling between them, avoiding their various appendages and jumping on roots, firing off banishing charms alternatively with both his wands and turning his opponents upside down.
Sirius ran towards him with wide-eyes, his own wand shaking with anticipation. How many years had passed since he last used it in a fight? He had always been a man of action, in love withthe thrill of battle, with the wild, excited pounding in his chest, and all those years in Azkaban hadn't changed that, apparently.
Sirius Orion Black found himself grinning like a madman.
"Lacero!" he shouted, trying not to let his voice quiver in excitement, and the aqua greenlight flew from his wand and towards a big spider charging his Godson. It was about halfway there when, much to his shock, the boy jumped in front of the creature and in front of the severing curse, facing it. "Harry!" he yelled in a high-pitched panicked tone.
Sirius' spell ricocheted against the shield, dispersing around in harmless tiny green rays, and the man exhaled a shuddering breath. Harry continued his movement, spun around and avoided some other snapping pincers aimed at his back. He rolled towards Sirius and when he got up, the man could see that the boy was pouting at him.
"Don't hurt them," he said in a childish voice like a son pleading his father not to kill a butterfly. He then grinned. "I suggestbanishing charms and curses. The trick is to make the spiders land on their backs so they can't get up again."
Sirius Black took a second to process that.
"Why don't we just stun them, then?" he asked as if it was obvious.
At those words, Harry – his totally, thoroughly crazy Godson – looked at him as if he was crazy.
"I wouldn't try that if I were you."
With that last piece of advice, the boy ran away again, leaving a baffled Sirius in front of three huge Acromantulas, their numerous eyes fixed on him as they corrected the direction of their attack, clicking pincers pointed at him.
The man fell back a little, and after one last uncertain glance at his Godson, raised his wand against the three spiders. "Repello!"
The creatures were launched back by his banishing charm but only one dropped on its back, moving its long legs and pincers uselessly. The other two shook their heads as if to clear them, and then charged together. Sirius was about to cast again, when something hit him from behind, and dragged him to the ground. He rolled over just in time to avoid the two angry Acromantulas who were at it back again, and found himself tangled with another huge spider, its pincers at not more than two inches from his face.
He yelped, continuing to roll and holding on his wand for dear life, trying to free himself with his other hand. He managed to kick the ground and regain his feet, and fled - very manly - away from the approaching creatures.
Harry was at little distance from him, dodging and rolling like crazy, his black uniform stained with soil and mud, his hair messier than ever and with leaves stuck in it. Acromantulas were turned upside down all around him and more were mirroring them as Sirius looked.
The man narrowed his eyes.
He was Sirius Orion Black, dammit! Gryffindor, Marauder, Auror, finalist in 1975 Hogwarts' Duel Competition, Death Eaters' nightmare and women's dream! A couple of overgrown spiders was nothing to him!
"Watch this now, Harry!" he shouted to his Godson, charging himself up.
He turned towards his pursuers and pointed his wand at the tree branches overtheir heads. "Animo!"
The huge wooden appendices just trembled a little and for a moment, Sirius feared he had used too little power. He was cursing against the damn Azkaban in his mind and thinking about what to do, when they finally started moving and slowly waving around. He smiled smugly and brought down his wand in a slashing motion, immediately mirrored by three of those thick branches. They crashed downon the group of spiders like huge whips and tossed a couple of them away like some hairy rag dolls. The others retreated a little, but the long branches reached them without problem and sent them rolling towards him. Two stopped on their backs and twitched a little, while the other three tried to stand up again only to collapse at the first attempt.
Sirius shouted defiantly and heard his Godson laugh from behind. He turned around and found him with a feral grin on his face not unlike his own. But unlike the boy, the man's expression changed completely when Harry held up his thumb and pointed to the right.
Sirius blanched, eyes wide and popping. At roughly twenty feet from them, two dozens Acromantulas had assembled, angrily pawing the ground and snapping their pincers. Behind them, a smaller group was working efficiently to push other spiders upright again. The largest group was apparently waiting for their fellows to join them.
"It seems they had a trick of their own," Harry said still pointing and grinning. "I guess we underestimated them a little."
"Maybe a little," Sirius agreed gulping. Now only on this side of the battlefield, there still were creatures lying on their backs, long legs trashing mildly or in some cases, wildly.
"Well, don't worry. Leave them to me. I have the perfect spell," he said seriously. "Let's end this."
Sirius looked at his Godson, at his ruthless expression, and wondered if that meant it would be okay to curse those creatures properly now. When the dark-haired boy stepped up, the dog animagus saw immediately how the Acromantulas grew wary, starting to space out to avoid giving the human an easy shot and to eventually circle him. Sirius had really underestimated their intelligence. He wondered what Harry had planned.
His Godson didn't give the spiders the necessary time to fan around and circle them. He instead ran towards the largest group, leg-locked the nearest Acromantula who dropped rigidly to a side, and, avoiding a pair of snapping pincers and hairy bodies, raised his old wand and intoned the curse he had trained on the most with his left hand in the last week.
Whatever Sirius expected, that was not it.
The pinkish, childish jinx flew towards the creatures scattering around to avoid it, and hit one of the tallest in the back. It took only a split of a second and then its eight legs started jerking wildly out of control. The Acromantula began to run at very high speed - much faster than anyone of those creatures had previously - its legs moving in a frenzy, its pincers snapping furiously in a panicked manner. The giant spider collided against one of its fellows - literally tossing it in the air -, but didn't even stop. It stumbled a little before resuming his wild run, bumping almost constantly, knocking down other Acromantulas, or charging little groups of them, launching them against the tree branches over their heads. Some of the other spiders tried and put a stop to it, but with little to no result.
Sirius could only look on in astonishment from the other side of the battlefield as the rough Acromantula defeated every one of its fellow spiders. He didn't even notice that his Godson was now looking at the scene next to him until he spoke.
"I always wondered why that spell was the Italian for 'Happy Tarantula'," he said frowning. "Do they look happy to you?"
"Well…" Sirius started looking around a little. "There is that big one who landed exactly on top of that little one." He pointed at the 'intercoursing' pair. "I think he's enjoying it."
Harry laughed heartily looking at them. Indeed, the one on top was doing some suspicious motions with the lower half of its body. Though it was probably just trying to disentangle its long legs – maybe its ninth too –, but the scene was ambiguous nonetheless. But trust Sirius to think about sex in almost every possible situation. He had just gotten out of Azkaban, sure, and roughly ten years had passed since he last had some sort of intercourse – not considering the St. Mungo's nurses he probably molested in these last days – but he surely couldn't be aroused by two giant spiders mating, right?
Harry turned towards his Godfather and noticed his dreamy look. He could only laugh more.
"Oh God, Sirius…" he said between chuckles. "I missed you."
"Oh?" the man asked shaking his head as if to clear it. "What?"
Harry just smirked at him. "So... how do you feel?"
Sirius was about to answer something along the lines of 'Great!' or 'Never felt better!', but then remembered where he was. And why. And with whom.
"How do Ifeel? How do I feel?" he yelled angry. He reached Harry's shoulders and started shaking them repeatedly. "How do you feel! Are you completely insane? Whatever got into your head to make you think entering the Forbidden Forest was a good idea? There's a reason if the word 'Forbidden' is part of its name! It's a dangerous place! You could have been killed! There are worse things than a pack of giant spiders here, like... like... like a lot of things! And you were lucky I followed you and found you in this haze!"
He stopped manhandling the boy but kept his hands on his shoulders, not letting go and leaning a little on them. He was breathless now, and red-faced. It was all Azkaban's fault, that damn place. He was definitely out of shape and, although the Healers at S. Mungo's had told him to do some physic activity, a wild run in the forest and a fight against giant spiders was probably what they would have defined as overwork.
Harry just raised an eyebrow at him. "Are you calm now?"
Sirius took a step back and a deep breath. He then tilted his head to a side, a funny expression on his face. "I am," he said almost surprised.
"Good," the boy continued cheerily, "because your loud voice probably just attracted that 'lot of things worse than a pack of giant spiders' you were talking about."
Harry laughed at his Godfather's panicked expression before turning towards the still scampering Acromantula. The poor thing was visibly tiring and slowing down. Its eight eyes were all fixed furiously on Harry as it ran around in a wild dance, occasionally hitting or stomping on its fellow spiders. With a quick Finite and a Repello, the creature was on its back, completely exhausted judging by its still legs. The dark-haired boy quickly cast a wide-area medical charm and checked that no spider was seriously injured. He nodded approvingly.
"Thank you for this enjoyable event. We had fun," Harry said to the Acromantulas, standing in their midst. "Tell Aragog 'Hi!' from me. If any of you want a rematch, just let Hagrid know where and when and I'll do anything possible to be there."
After a minute of shocked silence, the only answer he received was a significantly higher number of snapping sounds.
"Well, that's settled," Harry said once he was in front of his Godfather again. He looked at him up and down before giving his honest opinion. "You look healthier than I remembered, Sirius."
"Remembered?" the man asked bewildered.
"Yes, you looked definitely more like a wreck after you escaped from Azkaban," Harry added nodding his head.
"Escaped?" Sirius' brow furrowed.
"Yes, escaped. Can you stop parroting?" the dark-haired boy huffed, annoyed. "Anyway, I guess S. Mungo's treatment or maybe the two less years of prison are to thank for that."
The Marauder frowned, puzzled. He resisted the urge to 'parrot' again, opting instead to ask a more general and somewhat comprehensive question. "What in Gryffindor's name are you talking about?"
"I couldn't have waited for you to see a bloody photo with Peter in it, so I had to force the hand a little... how did you actually get your hands on that photo the first time around is beyond me, really."
Sirius tried hard to see some kind of sense in what his clearly touched in the head Godson was saying, but the effort seemed to only produce a "Arrgh!" sound in answer, as Sirius groaned taking his head in his hands.
"You're confusing me more than a Dementor!"
Harry put his wands back on their proper holsters under his uniform and started walking back from where he had come.
"Sorry," he said knowing he wasn't sounding it at all. He could feel Sirius' glare on the back of his head and couldn't help but grin. He really shouldn't find amusement in his Godfather's discomfort, but he intended to gain the most entertainment he could in the next hours of revelations.
"Come on. Let's go back to Hogwarts. I have a long story to tell you," he continued, his grin turning mischievous. "And I think you'll find it very funny."
Harry stepped out of the bushes and into Hogwart's lane with a huge grin on his face. He actually had to bit on his lower lip to refrain from laughing and consequently ruin everything. He ran a hand through his hair, freeing it from leaves, twigs and probably Tlinklits as well, and started pondering on how to proceed from there.
It was most likely meal time, seeing as there seemed to be no one outside the castle at the moment. From the chimney of Hagrid's hut lifted dark wisps of smoke and Fang's hungry barks could be heard despite the distance, sign that his half-giant owner was about to give him lunch. Harry's stomach grumbled, effectively distracting him enough to wipe the grin off his face and school his features in a faked puzzlement. He turned around and faced his stunned Godfather again. But it was hard to remain straight-faced in front of that sight.
Harry's face most probably gave his inner amusement away, because Sirius' until then wide eyes suddenly narrowed and the man stepped out of the woods where he had frozen in horror. He reached his Godson with large steps while sporting an angry frown.
"You're lying!" he snarled. "You're lying! Admit it!"
Harry's puzzled expression could have made the most confused Ron proud. "What?"
"Ah ah, Harry, very funny. I'm about to laugh my ass off... and kick yours over and over," the Marauder growled at him. "Say it isn't true!"
"I can't believe it, I refuse to!" the man said shaking his head repeatedly. "I can believe that you traveled back in time given what I saw and what you told me. That I was killed by Bella, okay, I can believe it," he conceded with a grimace. "It's... extremely implausible and unlikely, but with a lot of luck on her part, it could have incredibly happened." He took a deep breath after which he came up with a very disappointed expression. "But you honestly cannot expect me to believe... I had…" he struggled to utter the words, "an affair… with Moony!"
He shuddered exaggeratedly, making Harry's task to remain straight-faced even harder. Still, the dark-haired boy managed to and answered with a frown. "You were a wreck at the time and Remus was feeling guilty for the whole situation. Both of you were a little desperate and you terribly needed someone to show you some love and comfort."
"I don't think I would find a naked and horny Moony very comforting," Sirius said sarcastically.
Harry shook his head at him as if he couldn't possibly understand. "It wasn't about physical attraction. It was just about need." The boy raised his head and looked at his Godfather with a sad face. "It was beautiful at first, and you were so happy." He averted his eyes. "Then Moony's beasty side started to take control…"
"Argh!" Sirius shouted interrupting him. "You're lying! Now I know you're lying!" He fell back and onto the ground with a relieved expression on his face. "Thank God… thank you benevolent, almighty God…"
Harry pouted. "I overdid it, didn't I?"
"Yeah, you did." Sirius sighed in relief again before standing up. "James had the same bad habit as well. He would often ruin a perfect prank by going way over the top."
"I was tempted to say Moody instead of Moony at first," Harry admitted, smirking in seeing his Godfather's horror-stricken face. "That would have been way over the top."
"You're a sick, sick boy," the man said shaking his head. "Or man… or… whatever…"
"Boy is okay," Harry replied with a nod. "Well, Master wouldn't be bad either, but even Kreacher doesn't call me that, and I can't expect you to do that, right? By the way, tell him I sent you when you see him."
"Kreacher?" Sirius repeated. "Is he even still alive?"
"Yeah," Harry agreed. "You wouldn't believe it considering the stink."
"What?" the dog Animagus asked confused. "What are you talking about? Did you meet Kreacher?"
"Of course. I immediately moved to Grimmauld Place once I traveled back."
"That's why I couldn't enter the house when I tried!" Sirius exclaimed at once, clapping his hands once. "You had warded it! I hadn't given it much thought since I hated the place. And it's full of dark magic anyway... Besides, I was given an apartment in Muggle London by our generous Ministry. But now that I know you live there…" The man stopped for a moment and gave a long look to his obviously crazy godson. "I should stay in my sparkly new apartment?" he half-asked to himself with uncertainty.
"Nonsense," Harry said punching him lightly on the side. "It's the house of the noble and ancient – or better ancientest – Black family, so it's only proper for a Black to live there.
"Ancientest?" Sirius asked skeptically.
"Yes. Plus, I promised Kreacher I would have brought his old Master back."
"Hey, I'm not old," the man objected with a frown. "And I never got along with the little bugger anyway."
"Hmmm…" Harry murmured thinking about it. "What about the painting of your adorable, sweet Mom?"
"Mom!" Sirius said excitedly, a grin slowly spreading through his face. "I had forgotten about her. I should at least pay her a visit… maybe just to piss her off like the good old times!"
"Yes, yes, you should." Harry nodded repeatedly. "But try to be polite when you piss her off, would you? She has really missed her little sonny…"
Sirius snorted before noticing Harry's straight-face. "Did she say that?" he asked in disbelief.
The dark-haired boy shook his head. "No, but I could read it in her eyes and sense it in her loving words."
"Ah," the man said dryly.
"Anyway, take this," the young Gryffindor said, producing a small, crimson pendant from under his uniform. "This will get you inside Grimmauld Place safely. I could use a little hand once you're back in the house."
Sirius took the red object curiously. "With what?"
"Oh, you know, a little side project of mine..." Harry explained dismissingly, starting to walk towards Hogwarts. "We'll talk about it later. I have to go back to the castle now."
"Okay." The man fumbled with the pendant for a long second before looking up at his Godson and stopping him by putting a hand on his shoulder. "I… I'm really grateful for what you did, Harry. And I'm sorry for… for not being there for you in the past. I let Peter trap me like a stupid."
"What bullshit are you spewing? You didn't act stupidly," the dark-haired boy commented while turning around. "It was Wormtail who acted brilliantly."
Now, that was a little bit stunning in Sirius' opinion. "What?"
"Come on, think about it," the young Gryffindor continued with a rational tone. "It goes like this. Pettigrew betrays my parents and rattles everything to Voldemort. He thinks he'll be alright, and with reason. Who in the world thought that the most dangerous Dark Lord of the century could be defeated? So he plans to wait for his Master and get his nice little reward. But, fancy that, Voldemort is vanquished. Still following me?"
Sirius nodded dumbly.
"The moment is chaotic at the very least. While all the stupid Death Eaters are getting out of their holes like panicked rabbits to get themselves caught or killed, he plans his escape. When you find him, he pulls that suicide-trick and successfully frames you as Potters' traitor and Muggles' mass-murderer. He couldn't have come out on top of that mess in any other way in the situation he was in and with the means he had." Harry opened his arms wide at that point. "Admit it, Sirius. In those 24 hours, Peter Pettigrew acted as a fucking genius!"
The dog animagus thought about it for a long second and had to admit despite himself that his crazy Godson's reasoning actually made some kind of sense. "It's an interesting point of view," he eventually said, not ready to admit his real thoughts.
"Of course," the dark-haired boy resumed, "he threw it all away when he stayed in his rat form so long after that, deciding to become Percy Weasley's pet! That was so incredibly stupid that I think his brilliant stunts were just a fluke."
Sirius winced a little at those words, remembering all the times Peter got himself in trouble for something idiotic back in school. "Yeah. He's never been very bright, but had some moments of brilliance. He was a Marauder, after all," he continued with a snort before shaking his head. "I can't believe we're even discussing this, though. You're a strange bloke, oh Godson of mine." Flashing a sudden smile, the man put an affectionate hand on the boy's shoulder. "I like you already, pup."
The words had just left his mouth when he found himself looking down a wand's tip from real close.
He was very impressed – and intimidated. That had been the quickest draw he had ever seen in his whole life. He gulped nervously, Harry's wand firmly pointed at his face.
"What did you just say?" the young Gryffindor almost hissed under his breath.
Another loud gulp followed as Sirius withdrew the hand from the boy's shoulder.
"I-I just said that I like you already," the dog animagus defended himself at once… verbally, of course. His eyes stayed glued to the glowing stick hovering menacingly a couple of inches away from his nose.
"You called me 'pup' after that, didn't you?" Harry's voice was steely.
Sirius didn't like the situation at all, but there was something he had learned in his past of troublemaker, something that would come in handy once again now, a lesson he wasn't about to forget anytime soon.
When in a dire situation, deny, deny to the death. It was the Marauders' most important law when caught. He was pretty sure the tactic would have saved his ass even from being hauled to Azkaban had the Ministry given him something resembling a trial.
"I didn't, I swear!"
"Hmmm…" his Godson murmured not really convinced. His wand lowered a little all the same.
See? It works perfectly.
"I'm Sirius, I really am!" He really couldn't resist the old joke, but he surely as hell could resist the smile that usually accompanied it. In this situation at least. "I didn't say 'pup' at all. That's it! I burped. It was just a burp! The words do sound alike… no need to react this badly to such a simple mishearing, right?" He laughed nervously. "Right?"
Harry suddenly smiled at that, pulling his wand away. "Of course! I was just kidding. I know you wouldn't call me that." He paused for a moment as he positively beamed up at his Godfather, though the grin looked a bit stretched to Sirius' eyes. "Ever."
The man nodded his head at once, shifting his eyes around awkwardly and laughing a little in relief together with the boy. They patted backs and bid their goodbyes soon after that.
The young Gryffindor resumed walking towards the castle before stopping suddenly. "Oh, right. I almost forgot that. Please Sirius, do not enter your mother's room, okay?"
"Why?" the dog animagus asked, now a little guarded.
"Well... I put some stuff in there and I don't want you to see them," he replied with a small, gentle smile. "It's a surprise, okay?"
As Sirius agreed with a shrug, all Harry could do to hide his wolfish grin was to turn away from him and continue his walk through Hogwarts' lane. Now that the Marauder's curiosity had been picked, it was certain. He would try and enter his mom's room.
And the surprise would bite him in the ass.
"Ah, Sirius," he said under his breath. "That will serve you right for calling me that."
There was no one around to hear him laugh manically as he made his way to the castle.
"Now," Professor Flitwick said loudly. "Swirl the wand counterclockwise like we tried and say clearly: Wingardium Leviosa!"
A chorus of voices followed with various degrees of success the instruction of the tiny man standing on his usual pile of books. Some spelled the incantation wrong, some others didn't move the wand right, and few simply didn't get any kind of reaction from the feather lying on their desks despite getting everything correctly. Only two objects eventually hovered in the air - Professor Flitwick's feather and Harry Potter's desk.
Filius rolled his eyes. "You didn't have to show off so much, Harry. Making the desk hover won't change the ten points I would have given you if you had targeted the feather."
The dark-haired boy snorted. "But I had targeted the feather, sir" he said with a small smile. "I guess I don't have perfect control with my left hand yet."
"Oh." The Charm Professor looked apologetic. "Uhm, sorry. Why don't you try the spell again, then? All of you."
He started walking around the class of both Gryffindor and Slytherin's first years while giving pointers here and there. He tried to keep an eye out as he did that, though... he didn't want anything bad to happen between the two historically clashing Houses.
He couldn't help but grimace a little at that but there was nothing he could do anyway. Some adjustments to the schedule had to be made - the Headmaster had so many extracurricular projects and duties that he had to really make an effort to make his Defence against the Dark Arts lessons fit completely - and it surely had happened by chance that Gryffindor and Slytherin had been paired so much as a consequence. But one had to wonder… even flying lessons were soon to be shared by the two Houses!
Flitwick narrowed his eyes at the sniggering young Malfoy when Longbottom's feather caught fire. He sent the blond boy a squeaky warning as he conjured a trickle of water to put out the small flame and then proceeded to correct the Slytherin's incantation as harshly as he could... which he himself had to admit wasn't much.
At the end of the first hour, everyone had managed to perform the Levitation charm bar Ripcage. The half-goblin seemed to be struggling in his lessons, always getting every spell down a bit later than the other students. He also seemed quite down about that despite his friends' encouragements. He made a note to himself to talk to the boy some time after class and assure him there was nothing to worry about.
The rest of the lesson went on without any unusual problem. He had hoped the kids would have paid more attention to his lectures after being allowed to cast the Levitation charm, but at the end of the two hours most of them seemed distracted anyway. At the sound of the bell he sent them on their way with the task of researching the Gravitation charms and of practicing the spell they had learnt.
When the last student finally exited the classroom, Filius rubbed his eyes and tiredly stretched his arms. With a yawn, he jumped down the pile of books and walked to his office, closing the door behind his back. Once sitting at his desk, he reached for the pile of essays the fifth year Hufflepuffs had handed him that morning and started correcting and marking them. He was more or less halfway through them when the door suddenly burst open and a flustered-looking Minerva McGonagall came in.
"Filius, I've finally found you!"
The woman stepped in front of his desk and waved the roll of parchment she held in hand.
"What is it, Minerva?" Filius asked with worry in his voice. "Did something bad happen?"
"What? No, no," the Transfiguration Professor quickly amended. "Sorry, I shouldn't have made such a scene." She smiled apologetically for a moment before going back to an almost stunned expression. She shook the roll again. "But this... this..."
"What is it?" the tiny man asked curiously. An instant later though, he recognized it as a student's essay, and it wasn't difficult for him to put all the pieces together. "Oh, let me guess. Is that one of young Harry's essays?"
Minerva, who was about to say he couldn't possibly guess right, closed her mouth abruptly.
"Yes, it is... how did you know?" she asked eventually.
In answer, Filius opened the drawer on his side of the desk and pulled out two rolls of parchment himself. With a small, amused smile, he passed them to Minerva's outstretched hand.
"May I have yours?" he asked with a chuckle.
The stern woman looked at him with a raised eyebrow before handing him her own roll. She then sat on a nearby chair and started reading what at a first glance looked like a Charms essay.
The silence that descended on the room could only last a couple of seconds.
"Filius!" Minerva started shocked. "But this is... this is..."
"Yeah, I know!" the tiny man said excitedly.
The woman scanned the parchment down quickly and could only shake her head in disbelief.
"He transformed an essay on the principles of Charms in a short novel about a silly man literally stumbling upon them!" he said chuckling. He let the woman keep on reading for a while before speaking up again. "Quite funny, isn't it? And you still have to read the other one!"
"What is it?" the woman asked struggling to peel her eyes off Mister Potter's admittedly amusing novel.
Filius grinned like a madman. "I had assigned the class a research about the possible dangers of using Charms incorrectly or irresponsibly. Care to guess what he came up with?"
Minerva took the other essay in her hands. She gasped.
"Oh, he did." Filius nodded, an almost crazed smile playing on his lips. "A whole page of obituaries from a hypothetical daily paper about random people dying because of backfiring charms."
She glanced down to a name that had caught her eyes.
"No!" she shrilled.
"Yes!" he squeaked before chuckling again.
"He killed Albus!" she shouted in outrage. "And-and-and… with a Tempus charm!"
The tiny man's laughter could be heard throughout many of the nearest halls surrounding the classroom, his squeaky voice echoing against the stone walls. That didn't help Minerva's mood at all.
"Filius!" she chided.
"Sorry Minerva," the Charm Professor apologized. "But I already showed it to the Headmaster, and he too doesn't seem displeased at all with Harry's... atypical take on the topic of my essay. Moreover he asked me to give him a copy of it. I think he plans to have it framed..."
The stern woman just shook her head, still incredulous. Almost as an afterthought, she turned the roll around.
"You gave him an O+! But it doesn't even exist!"
"Now it does," Filius said simply. "Now, if you would just let me read yours..."
Minerva shook her head again and then kept quiet as the Charms Professor chuckled his way through the Transfiguration essay Mister Potter had given her.
"This is incredible!" the tiny man said with a huge smile. "I really feel for poor Wooly!"
"Oh, don't be ridiculous, Filius!" the cat Animagus said exasperatedly.
"It must be a real unpleasant experience to be transfigurated back and forth from pebble to cotton," the former duelist reasoned with mock-sorrow before grinning widely. "But seriously, this is genius! Describing the magical process from the pebble's point of view…"
"He certainly has a fervid imagination," Minerva conceded. "I wouldn't call that genius."
"Whatever you want to call it, this still remains one of the most brilliant and original works on magic I've ever read! It ranks up in my list with a couple of Charms dissertations of the 18th century and the magic-revolutionary book De Magico Mundo by Merlin himself." Filius exclaimed excitedly before amending. "And, of course, with Harry's other essays…"
"I'll admit they're enjoyable and entertaining – and on top of that, perfectly correct and detailed from the magical point of view – but still!" The Transfiguration Professor pushed her glasses from the tip of her nose. "They're so… so…"
"Unorthodox," Minerva finished, sending her friend a glare. "I don't even know how to mark them!"
"I swear, Minnie, if you give him a T, I'll-"
"I won't, I won't, don't worry." She rolled her eyes while standing up. "I have to go now. I still have the other Gryffindor's essays unmarked in my office."
She reached out with her hand and waited for the man to finally return the parchment. She then looked hesitantly down at the two rolls on the desk.
"Yes, Minerva? Do you need something?" the Charms Professor asked eventually, way too sweetly for her tastes.
The stern woman found herself grimacing and struggling with her next words.
"May I have a copy of those?"
Filius Flitwick could only grin in triumph at that.
"So I dived down as low as I could and stopped the Quaffle with my left foot," Ron Weasley was saying excitedly. "And thanks to me, we never had to go and get it from the gnome den."
"So you're pretty good on a broom," Dean Thomas asked with interest. He still didn't know very well what this Quidditch was all about, but he was getting excited just by listening to all the talk the first years did about it since the schedule of the broom lessons had appeared in the Common Room.
"Well, you heard about my brother Charlie," the red-head said hesitantly. "I'm nothing like him, of course – he's the best I've ever seen bar some pros - but I'm no slouch either. Flying is in my veins."
"Aren't Fred and George also in the Gryffindor Quidditch team?" Lavender asked.
"Like I said, in my veins," Ron reiterated smugly.
There was a loud snort after those words and the group of Gryffindors turned around only to see Draco Malfoy and some other Slytherins looking at them hostilely.
"In your veins?" the blond boy repeated incredulously. "I bet you wouldn't recognize a broom's handle even if it hit you right on the nose!"
Malfoy's housemates laughed around him and Ron's ears turned red immediately. He made to speak but someone stepped in front of him.
"McLoyd didn't really mean it, Ron," Harry told him calmly. "It's just that the broom hit him on his head rather than his nose when he was a baby. It's not his fault."
The red-head barked out a laugh with the other Gryffindors and it was his turn to watch Malfoy redden slightly.
"My name is Malfoy, Potter!" the blond shouted. "And it's your head that's got more than a few hits! You're completely bonkers!"
"There's bonkers and then there's bonkers," Harry said wisely.
"Listen to you!" The Slytherin snorted. "And look at you! Surrounded by this bunch of losers and idiots that follow you like dogs! Not to talk about the actual freak over there…" His face sneered in Ripcage's direction. "A freak and a squib. He practically doesn't have magic!"
"Careful, LeRoy, or he'll levitate your ass over the Giant Squid," the dark-haired boy said as menacingly as possible, although it wasn't easy to come up with good threats when all the spells you could use were first years' ones. "And he's as much freak as both you and I are, in our own personal way."
"I'm nothing like you!" Malfoy protested angrily, either forgetting or giving up in trying to force the other boy to get his name right.
"That's why I said personal way," Harry reminded him before turning around and walking away. "We're all part of a freak show. Don't be mad if you're not the leading event."
He ignored the sputtering behind him and smiled slightly at the Gryffindors walking beside him again, some of them commenting on what had just been said, others just loudly enjoying Malfoy's frustration. Ripcage was quiet, though. Harry had noticed the look on his face when the blond Slytherin had called him names, but decided not to bring the matter up again for the moment.
Surprisingly enough, it was the half-goblin himself that did that, a few hallways before they reached their Common Room.
"Harry," he called him seriously, "may I talk to you for a moment?"
The dark-haired boy turned around inquisitively and nodded. "Sure. Don't wait for us, guys. See you later."
As the rest of the group waved at them before continuing on their way, Ripcage led Harry to a nearby classroom, checking that it was desert before stepping inside. The half-goblin then closed the door and turned to his friend while twisting his brownish hands nervously.
"Teach me…" he started hesitantly. "Teach me how to do magic like you do."
Harry looked at him strangely. "We do it the same way, Rip," he said as if speaking to a slow child.
"No. No, you manage spells much more easily," he protested. "I… I can't…"
"Listen," the dark-haired boy interrupted him as he struggled with the words. "There's no need to fret about it. Magic is different for each person. For some is quicker, for others more powerful, or more understandable. And there are many things that cause that. I knew a woman who couldn't perform a Levitation charm to save her life because she had fear of heights and-"
"But it's not just the Levitation charm for me!" Ripcage retorted hotly, blushing a little. "I struggled with every spell they taught us until now! I… I'm starting to wonder if coming to Hogwarts hasn't been a mistake…"
Harry frowned harshly at those words. "Don't say that. It just means that yours is a general problem and not one specific to a spell. We just have to find it out." He walked to a nearby desk and sat on it. "Let's see what we can do."
During the next hour, the two Gryffindors went over the motions of the Levitation charm, analyzing every step carefully until Ripcage was simply too exhausted to continue. He just lay on the floor and sulked about the unfairness of it all.
"I don't understand," Harry said at that point, looking almost incredulously at the feather stubbornly glued on the desk. "You're doing everything right, now. Even your feel of magic seems right, as much as I can tell from an external point of view. Maybe you've been attacked by the Gushing Guslits Luna told me about. They're said to block in the victim's magic," the boy mused. "Did you experience ticklish knees recently, or maybe an irresistible compulsion to go up to a wooden object and use it to scratch your body?"
Ripcage just shook his head, frankly too tired to even question the other's words or look at him warily.
"No, eh?" Harry commented thoughtfully. "That's strange. Your wand movement is good, and you're finally able to spell Leviosa correctly. Really, really strange…"
The half-goblin snorted tiredly at that.
"Wingardium Leviosa…" he said in a frustrated tone. "What kind of words are those anyway?"
"They're a crude distortion of both English and Latin," Harry explained vaguely. "They don't make much sense, honestly. I imagine you- Hey! Maybe that's it!"
Ripcage tiredly raised his head from the floor. "What's it?"
"The source of your problem!" the dark-haired boy cheered excitedly. "Those words sound completely foreign to you, more so than me or any other student here!"
A golden brow furrowed above yellow eyes.
"Why is that?"
Harry grinned from ear to ear.
"Gobbledygook!" he exclaimed in triumph.
"Yes! You grew up with the goblins, so that's pretty much all you heard, at least for the first few years of your life, right?" The Boy-who-lived nodded his head quickly. "That's your first language, isn't it?"
Rip's eyes slowly started getting wider and, unnoticed to him, so did Harry's, who was suddenly struck by an incredible idea.
"Translate it into Gobbledygook!" the now animated young Gryffindor all but ordered to his Metamorphmagus friend.
The half-goblin looked at him with a slightly lost look as he stood up. "I-I-I don't even know what Wingardium Leviosa means!"
Harry just waved his hands dismissingly and impatiently. "Just try something like hover or fly or maybe high and light. Heck, try them all!"
Ripcage slowly did as instructed, the guttural words of his mother-language rolling out of his mouth with some nervousness. But much to his surprise and delight, the feather on the desk hovered just a tiny bit before dropping down back again.
"I-I did it!" the half-goblin whispered excitedly, his hair and eyes changing color ever so rapidly.
"What words did you use?" Harry immediately demanded, now with a notebook in his hands.
Rip told him and then repeated everything over and over, until the feather stayed steadily in the air for ten long seconds. He laughed out loud after that, feeling more elated than any time he could remember, and Harry looked pretty much as happy as him as he wrote down some things on the paper.
"Yes!" he shouted with a crazed look in his eyes. "I have it!"
"What?" the other first-year Gryffindor asked curiously, still smiling widely.
"The first English-Gobbledygook dictionary ever!"
Ripcage couldn't help but snort at that. "You only have, what? Four headwords?"
"Five," the dark-haired boy corrected at once. "And we'll review every spell they taught and will teach us until I'll have the whole bloody language down!"
Ripcage laughed openly. "It will take a long time."
"We have seven years, haven't we?"
"Right." The half-goblin shook his head. "And knowing a language isn't only about knowing words."
"I know that," Harry countered with a large grin. "But you'll help me. You owe me big time now."
Ripcage mulled it over in his head for a long second, chewing his lower lip as he did.
"But you have to promise me-"
"Yes! Yes! Yes!" the other exulted at once, pumping a fist in the air. "I did it! I fucking promise you whatever you want! I'll fucking respect The Fucking Pact! I fucking did it!"
Apparently, the situation required some swearing.
Harry then started performing some victory gig and the half-goblin could only roll his eyes at such display of childishness and supposed maturity one next to the other. A smile was tugging up the corner of his lips, though.
They ended up staying up late that night, in the very first Gobbledygook lesson any human had ever assisted to. Only the basics for the moment, but Harry Potter couldn't stop grinning wildly all the while.
The single word resonated through the lawn of Hogwarts as all the first years of both Gryffindor and Slytherin House stood next to a broomstick on the ground to start the very first flying lesson of their life.
Harry's broom was one of the few to jump immediately into its owner's hands, while the majority of the students was left repeating the order again and again. The dark-haired boy looked around a little before narrowing his eyes. Broom in hand, he walked up to his friend Neville and watched his sweaty and nervous expression closely.
A beat later, he whacked the boy right on the head with his own broom. Hard.
"Owww!" Neville whined, actually jumping away, startled. "What was that for, Harry?"
The question was followed by another blow – which actually hit the boy's fingers rather than his head – and the Gryffindor pureblood cried out again.
"Owww! It hurts! Stop it!"
"It hurts, you say?" Harry repeated, advancing menacingly towards the retreating boy. He whacked him on the head once more. "At least I'm giving you a good reason for being scared of a broom. Come here!"
Neville hid behind a slightly less nervous Hermione instead.
"A broom can't hurt you," the boy-who-lived commented with a gleam in his eyes, "unless it's in my hands, that is. Stop being afraid of one lying harmlessly on the ground!"
"I'm more worried about that same broom, but once is between my legs," Hermione said coming to her fellow Gryffindor's defense. Neville, still behind her, nodded in agreement.
Harry looked at her strangely for a long second. "You might want to keep that particular sentence to yourself when in front of older people… although your Dad could appreciate it."
A confused expression formed on her face. "Why?"
"Never mind that… anyway, what are you worried about? If you don't want to fall from too high, then fly just a few inches off the ground. If you are afraid of flying too fast, then fly slowly," Harry said simply, finally lowering his, err… weapon. "You control the broom, no?"
"Actually," Neville countered, coming out from behind Hermione, "that's what I'm afraid of. Not being able to control it."
Harry quickly hit him on the head again.
"I'm controlling mine, am I not?"
"Harry, stop it!" Hermione scolded him. That earned her a whack of her own. "Hey!"
The dark-haired boy grinned at her. "Sorry, my hand slipped." He started advancing towards her when something hit him on the head.
He turned around and saw Neville, his own broomstick gripped tightly between clammy fingers, looking at it as if he hadn't meant to use it and was surprised himself.
"Ah, is that so?" Harry said in a crazed voice. "Then take this!"
He hit the clumsy boy a few times, fending off his feeble counters, until Hermione joined the fray as well, broom waving dangerously over her head. The other students around them rushed away.
"Way to go, Hermione!" Dean cheered from a safe position.
Two on one, the duo managed to whack Harry twice and to defend themselves, before Madame Hooch came down screeching like a vulture and put a stop to the brawl.
"What in Merlin's name are you doing? Potter, stop it!"
All three kids were grinning when the teacher took back their brooms. She took a closer look at the magical objects to see if they were damaged but noted with relief they weren't. Harry giggled a little while rubbing his bruised forehead lightly.
"See?" he said simply to his friends but didn't get any reply but for their anxious panting.
Madame Hooch raised her eyes upon the boy-who-lived and glared.
"What was the meaning of this?" she scolded. "Brooms aren't meant to be used to play like that! You could have broken them! You could have hurt yourselves as well!"
Hermione lost her smile at once when the woman's gaze shifted to her, while Neville's was still lingering slightly on his lips.
"I was just teaching them a lesson," Harry explained. "People always tell me I'm good at it."
The woman actually growled. "Leave teaching to me for now. Better split you up. Come with me to the other side, hurry." She beckoned Harry to follow her and ordered him and the other students to put their brooms back on the ground. "Let's see you using it properly now," she said almost challenging.
"Up!" everyone shouted again, and Madame Hooch watched as the boy easily succeeded. She nodded grudgingly and then proceeded to explain how to grip and mount the broom correctly.
"Do you already know how to fly, Potter?" she asked with a gruff voice, seeing as he was handling the magical object perfectly. The boy just smiled creepily in answer, leaving her murmuring under her breath, "Weird kid…"
After everyone had grasped how to properly mount on the broom, Madame Hooch explained how to take flight and instructed them to hover in the air for just a few seconds before returning to the ground. Everyone did just that at her whistle with various degrees of success. Some took off just a few feet, some others wobbled dangerously all the time, some others still landed very awkwardly. All in all, though, everyone got back to the ground safely.
"Very well," Madame Hooch complimented. She corrected the mistakes she had noticed and then ordered, "We'll do a slow lap around the field, now. Stay steadily leaned forward and direct the handle of your broom where you want it to go, as is to say, following me." She mounted on her sparkly new Cleansweep Seven and took off together with her students.
Something went wrong this time around. A Slytherin first year, Tracy McDavis, shot up way too high, twenty feet above the ground even, finally losing control of her broom and slipping sideways. She fell down with a nasty crack and, after a moment of silence, howled in pain.
Madame Hooch was back on the ground and bending over her in an instant, followed more shakily by the first years around her.
"Broken wrist," she murmured, taking a look at the girl. "Come on, it's all right. Up you get!"
She turned to the rest of the class.
"None of you is to move while I take this girl to the hospital wing! You stay with your feet well on the ground or you'll be out of Hogwarts before you can say 'Quidditch.' Come on, dear."
Harry felt like he should have remembered something at that point, while watching Tracy hobble off with Madame Hooch. The scene just occurred had felt somewhat familiar in its clumsiness, but he couldn't really remember why…
Oh well… he had long since known that his memory, and his mind in general, was a conveniently selective being, some times acting on its own hidden agenda even. The truth would pop up in his head at the most opportune moment, probably screwing him over or making him look even weirder than he already was.
It always did that.
He turned around as some ruckus started behind him. He saw Malfoy mocking Neville while holding something above his head, and decided to make his way over there.
"Give it back!" the clumsy Gryffindor was saying somewhat heatedly. "Gran gave me that!"
"I think I'll leave it somewhere for you to find," the Slytherin commented with a smirk. "How about… up a tree?"
He noticed Harry walking towards him and immediately leapt onto his broomstick, taking off.
"Come and get it if you can!" he yelled tauntingly from high above.
Surprisingly, Neville tried to. He took his broomstick with shaky hands and mounted it.
"No!" Hermione shouted. "Madam Hooch told us not to move! She has scolded us once already! You'll get expelled!"
The boy looked very pale at the reminder, or maybe it was because of what he was about to do. Whatever the case, he kicked off from the ground and hovered there for a few moments before pointing the broom skywards. It didn't last long. He wasn't nearly good enough yet. Instead of going up, he came spiralling down dangerously and only Harry's intervention stopped him from hurting himself.
The boy-who-lived blocked the other's descent with his shoulder and managed to balance him with his arms, while Malfoy laughed overhead. When Neville was safely on the ground again, surprisingly looking more angry than scared, Harry took the boy's broomstick from the ground and flippantly asked, "May I?"
He didn't wait for an answer and just mounted it with ease, ignoring Hermione's warnings of incoming educational doom. He shot up through the air and towards Malfoy, facing him calmly.
"Give it here, please," he said, not even knowing what it was.
"Take it yourself," the Slytherin sneered and Harry blinked once at that.
"Okay," he said simply, darting forward like an arrow. The blond boy dodged him by a whisker, but looked a fairly bit paler after that. Harry veered around to attack again, but Malfoy apparently had had enough.
"Catch it if you can!" he screeched high-pitchedly and threw a glass-looking ball high into the air before going back to the ground.
The young Gryffindor acted on instincts, while his mind processed that the object was a Remembrall and that seeing it flying away felt familiar once again. He leaned forward and pointed his broom's handle down. Gathering speed in a steep dive, he enjoyed the wind rushing at his face as he reached out with his hand and caught the magical object. He pulled his broom straight with a firm and yet gentle tug and felt the grass of Hogwarts' lane brush the sole of his feet.
The Remembrall had grown scarlet as soon as he had clutched it and Harry was wondering what was he possibly forgetting, when a Sonorus-enhanced voice reached his ears.
Turning the broom to the cluster of people assembled behind him, he saw Minerva McGonagall running towards them.
"Oh," he said, comprehension descending on his features in the form of a quite dim-witted expression. "That was it."
The Remembrall stopped glowing a beat later.