EDIT: Thanks to Zerri for catching a rather glaring mistake.
Chapter 2: Fitting In
"Fred, George. Mind if I talk to Ginny alone for a bit?" asked Harry.
The two glanced at each other, then at Ginny. They grinned slightly, obviously assuming that he was intending something that he was not.
"Sure, Harry," they moved to leave, but Fred leaned in close and whispered, "Be nice to her, okay?" And with that, they moved on.
"Ginny," Harry started, then hesitated.
"Harry… they're all back!" Ginny said, tears of happiness filling her eyes. She flung herself forward and trapped him in a tight hug. After a moment, his mind filled with relief, Harry hugged her back.
"Ginny," Harry began again. He looked around. No one was watching, nor were any close enough to hear. "It's gone."
"What's gone?" Ginny asked, looking confused.
"The madness! I could always feel it, like an itch that I couldn't scratch. But now I feel, well, normal!" Harry said. "As normal as I ever have been, anyway…" he amended.
Her smile couldn't have been any wider, and she hugged him again. "That's wonderful!" she exclaimed. "Why, do you think? I always thought it was because of the stress of losing so many people at once, and because your magic was so powerful, it just well, you know. Expressed your real desires."
Harry slumped, a bit ashamed of himself. "That's probably accurate," he said quietly. "Maybe… the first person I met when I came back was Ron himself. Maybe it all just… fell away."
"Well, I'm not going to question it too much," she said. "I'm just going to be thankful for it."
Harry smiled. "Yeah… we can figure things out later. Let's just enjoy ourselves tonight," he said. "Just remember to try and act like you used to. I know it's hard. I've already made myself look a lot cleverer by bypassing Dobby's barrier on the platform." He shook his head. "Just don't act too unnaturally. We can start acting more and more like ourselves as time goes on, let our friends be introduced to the real us gradually, so it doesn't scream 'imposter!'"
She nodded. "That would definitely be bad," she said.
"I should be getting back to Ron and Hermione," he said. "I told them I was going to the bathroom."
"Okay," Ginny said reluctantly. "I'll go with you then. You can just say you ran into me on your way back."
They had not made it more than halfway back, however, when they heard a familiar sneering voice say, "Poor little firstie! You need your Mummy?" Draco Malfoy laughed. "Oh, that's right, she's dead!"
Harry's hand clenched in anger, and he stepped forward quickly. There he was, in all his traitorous glory, the Malfoy heir himself. He was surrounded by his usual troupe— Crabbe, Goyle, Parkinson and Bulstrode.
"Sinking even lower I see, Malfoy," Harry said angrily. "Picking on a first year, shows how brave you lot are." He looked to the poor girl they were tormenting and got a shock. It was none other than a younger Luna Lovegood. His anger deepened. Though he was not as close to Luna as he was to Ron, Hermione, and Ginny, she was still a very good friend. He pulled his wand out, Ginny following suit. "I suggest you leave now," he said dangerously, fully ready to lead off with some truly lethal curses. Gone the madness might be, but nearly seven years of nothing but fighting and death changed a person.
"What are you going to do about it, Potter?" jeered Malfoy. "You're outnumbered here."
"Quality over quantity," Harry snarled, slashing his wand through the air, a cutting curse slicing a groove in the floor right next to Malfoy's feet. Harry would rather have set an example by causing a small cut on the wannabe Death Eater's face, but then his wand would be checked, and he would be given at least a detention, if not worse, for attacking a fellow student with a potentially deadly curse.
Malfoy's eyes were wide at Harry's willingness to use such a spell, and was obviously surprised at how easily he'd cast it. "Let's go," he muttered to his group. They left quickly, shuffling towards the front of the train. Harry and Ginny slid their wands away. They moved to the blonde girl on the floor.
"Are you alright?" Harry asked, offering her a hand up.
"I imagine I'll be fine," Luna said airily, tear tracks still on her face. She took his hand and he helped her to her feet.
Harry pulled out a handkerchief he'd had in his pocket and handed it to the girl. "Here," he said. "You want to sit with us?"
"I don't want to be a bother," said Luna, dabbing at her face.
"You won't be, trust me. Just come with us," said Harry, starting to walk towards Ron and Hermione's compartment again. Reaching his destination, Harry slid open the door and walked in. "I've got a couple more friends to sit with us," he said.
"Who?" Hermione asked curiously.
Luna and Ginny walked in at that moment, answering her question. "Hello everyone," Luna said uncertainly.
"Hello, I'm Hermione," Hermione said kindly.
"'Lo," Ron said with a wave.
Harry leaned close to Ron and whispered, "Malfoy and his goons were picking on her. I threatened them till they backed off." The redhead nodded, but was obviously surprised at Harry's actions.
Luna looked over at Ron. "Oh, I know you," she said. "You're that boy Ronald who used to come with Ginny to my house sometimes."
"Oh yeah, you're Luna Lovegood right?" Ron said, remembering her suddenly. "Mum would sometimes have us go over to your house if nobody was home to watch me and Ginny."
And with the introductions done the five of them lapsed awkwardly into idle conversation, though it quickly got easier.
"Hey, did the trolley come by yet?" Harry asked suddenly, realizing just now how hungry he was. Not surprising. After all, the last time he remembered eating anything was a simple breakfast of eggs and toast just before attempting the Trials. His body probably hadn't had anything since morning, at the Burrow, as he recalled that he had spent the some of the summer after his first year .
"Yeah, sorry mate. We didn't think to get much, so it's all gone," Ron said apologetically.
"Oh well," Harry said regretfully. He glanced out the window. The terrain outside looked vaguely familiar. "Looks like we're getting close anyway," he said. "We should probably change." Ten minutes later, after dividing off to separate bathrooms to change their clothes, they returned to the compartment, only to notice the train was pulling into Hogmeade station.
Harry blinked. Has it really been that long since we left King's Cross? It only felt like an hour or so, seeing them alive again.
As they exited the train, Harry and Ginny heard another voice they thought they'd never hear again.
"Firs' years! Firs' years over this way!" Called Hagrid.
"Hey Hagrid!" Harry said, his stomach clenching as he saw his long dead friend again.
"Harry! Good teh see yeh again!" said Hagrid. "I'll see yeh at th' feast." The half-giant strode off, shepherding the first years to the small boats that would carry them to the castle for the first time.
"See you soon," Harry said to Ginny as she walked toward the other first years with Luna and a small blonde boy who carried what looked like an old Muggle camera around his neck. Harry and the other second years climbed into the carriages that would take them to the castle, the thestrals that pulled them snorting softly, unheard by anyone but Harry and Luna.
"They're beautiful, aren't they?" Harry said suddenly.
Everyone looked at him, but he was looking at Luna. "You can see them, right? The winged horses pulling the carriages."
"Yes," Luna said, surprised. "They're amazing creatures. Why? Can no one else see them?"
Hermione and Ron shook their heads.
"Do you know what they are?" Luna asked, her blue eyes curious.
Harry looked out the carriage's window, gazing at them. "Yes," he said finally, raising his hand and pressing it against the glass. "They're thestrals."
"They're what?" Hermione asked curiously, as Ron gasped.
"You can only see thestrals if you've seen death," Harry answered quietly.
"D-death?" Hermione asked nervously.
"Yes. You need to see someone die," Harry said, still facing the window, not wanting the others to see his sad expression.
That sobered the entire contingent for a time, long enough for the carriages to complete their journey.
They exited the carriages and walked through the great portal that was the Hogwarts front entrance, arriving in the Great Hall soon after. The Gryffindors greeted anyone they had not met on the train as they waited for the Sorting to start.
Suddenly, Harry felt a sharp mental spike shatter against his Occluded mind. He looked up for the source of the attack, unthinkingly. Snape's eyes were widened slightly with surprise.
Remembering himself, Harry realized that he shouldn't have reacted as he had, and quickly looked down again. Shit! I shouldn't have looked directly at him. Now he knows I know about what he just did. Harry cringed. This was going to cause problems later, he was sure. I doubt that that was the first time the greasy bastard has attempted to penetrate my mind.
Hermione's concerned voice broke his reverie. "Are you alright, Harry?" she asked.
He forced himself to smile slightly. "Yeah, Hermione, I'm fine," he lied reassuringly. Finally, the first years appeared, looking around in wonder at the many amazing things in the Great Hall, like the ceiling, and the floating candles. McGonagall led them to where the Sorting Hat lay on its traditional stool.
This should be good, Harry thought. Never did get to hear this song first time around. Me and Ron were too busy flying a car into a tree.
With no further ado, the hat broke out into song.
As a new year starts.
The Hall is filled, students all.
New and old will play their parts.
Clever Ravenclaw, full of wit.
They'll earn their wisdom bit by bit.
Slytherin, brimming with desire
They'll spin webs, and devious plots.
Brave Gryffindor, burning like fire,
They'll charge right in, heeding not danger.
Loyal Hufflepuff, standing strong with friends,
They'll work hard, not fearing sweat.
Because I am a hat, I can see your heads,
I'll never steer you wrong, I'll find your path.
To which house you'll go, there are only four,
Do the math!
Harry joined the rest of the students in clapping uncertainly. Maybe the Hat hadn't been particularly inspired this year… The Sorting promptly began. Most of the names passed by in a blur, until it got to one "Lovegood, Luna." Unsurprisingly, the hat quickly shouted, "RAVENCLAW!!"
I've got to make sure that we try and be her friend earlier this time. I remember how lonely she really was until fifth year, Harry mused.
Once again, the names were vaguely familiar, but Harry paid no attention to any of them, only clapping when his housemates did. Finally, "Weasley, Ginny" was called. The hat had barely touched her head when it roared, "GRYFFINDOR!!" This time, Harry joined in with the clapping and cheering for real, as she made her way to the table, and sat down in the seat that Harry had saved for her, between him and Ron.
With the Sorting finally over with "Zachary, Allen", Albus Dumbledore stood in all his silver-bearded glory, and the Hall quickly quieted down.
"Now, before we dig into the most excellent feast that has been prepared for us, I have few small announcements to make. First and foremost, I'd like to welcome Professor Gilderoy Lockhart to the school as our new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher!" said Professor Dumbledore. The blonde fraud of a teacher stood and took a flashy bow, his white teeth sparkling in the candlelight. Harry gave him an ugly look. God, I hope I get the opportunity to reveal him for the useless twit that he truly is, that troll-shagging scum.
After the charlatan sat down, Dumbledore continued. "I would also like to remind you that the list of items that are banned in Hogwarts is pinned to the door of our caretaker Mr. Filch's office. I believe that the list has now expanded to include fifty-seven new items, such as Exploding Scones and Bubbling Snares." A small number of barely audible groans were heard.
Dumbledore smiled slightly, his eyes twinkling. "Well, that's enough from me! Dig in!"
As Harry remembered, the food appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. Harry attacked his meal with a somewhat less than polite vigor. Ron, Hermione, and Ginny all looked at him, Ron with amazement, Hermione with disgust, and Ginny with amusement. Two courses and dessert later, he was stuffed, and walking with the rest of the Gryffindors to the common room. Arriving at the Fat Lady, Percy Weasley, who walked at the head of the pack, simply said "Wattlebird" with no prompting, and she swung open. Most of the second years simply went to bed, including Ron and Hermione, but Ginny and Harry stayed downstairs, waiting for the common room to empty, so that they could talk.
An hour later, a yawning seventh year finally rose from his seat and left. As soon as his footsteps faded, the two rose from their positions staring at the fire and sat in chairs that were right next to each other.
"So where did you 'appear'," Harry asked, glancing at her.
"In the middle of a conversation with Fred and George," said Ginny. "I really had to work hard to make it seem like I knew what they were talking about. I'm glad you came in when you did," she chuckled. "What about you?"
"Outside the sealed barrier. You remember, this is the year that Dobby- " Harry's eyes widened suddenly. "Ginny," he said seriously.
She looked up, surprised at his tone. "What is it?" she asked.
"The diary!" he said. "The Horcrux," he said in a much lower voice.
"Oh, god. I can't believe we almost forgot what we came here to do," she said. "It should be in my trunk. I'll bring it down tomorrow, and we can work out some means of destroying it without drawing a huge amount of attention."
Harry shook his head. "No, leave it where it is for now. It shouldn't be bothered while in your trunk. Just bring it down when we have a way to destroy it."
He yawned loudly. "We should get to sleep," he remarked, glancing at the clock. "These bodies aren't accustomed to sleeping only a few hours like we were in the future."
The two of them parted, Ginny giving him a parting peck on the cheek. As he slowly walked up the stairs, Harry only had one thought on his mind.
This time, Tom, it's going to be different. Your Fate is sealed.
The next day dawned cold and dreary, but Harry woke up in a fairly good mood, and with more energy than he could remember having in years. He was almost euphoric; he felt his blood singing from the moment he got up.
Whoa, Harry thought. It feels strange having so much… strength. He grinned and sprang out of bed like the kid he was again, quickly showering and dressing, dashing down to breakfast. He was slightly early. Even the staff table was half empty, with only Professors Dumbledore, McGonagall, Sprout, and Flitwick being present. The only other Gryffindors in the Hall were Ginny and Neville Longbottom.
"Oh, morning Harry," said the round-faced boy, glancing up from his breakfast.
"Morning Neville," Harry said cheerfully. Ginny glanced up at him as he sat down across from her.
"Someone is in a good mood today," Ginny said, smiling.
"Yeah… I think I got up on the right side of the bed this morning," Harry said, grabbing a plate and loading it up. "I feel like I'm bursting with energy." Ginny's brow furrowed.
"What?" Harry asked.
"I'll tell you later," Ginny said. "It's not that important." He sent her a questioning glance, but let it drop. Neville looked at them curiously.
They continued eating their breakfast, chatting idly with each other as the Hall slowly filled itself. Ron and Hermione arrived at the same time, an hour later. They dug into their breakfast as McGonagall stood and began passing out schedules.
"Herbology first… then Transfiguration," Ron muttered. Several minutes later, the bell rang, and the second years trudged down towards the greenhouses. Beside greenhouse Three stood Lockhart, having a conversation with Professor Sprout, who did not look particularly enthusiastic. Sprout spotted the second years. "We're in Greenhouse Three today, class," she said, removing a large key from her belt, and unlocking the door of the greenhouse. The musty odor of plants wafted out. Walking in, Harry noticed around a hundred purplish-green tufts of what looked somewhat like ferns. Oh, no, Harry realized. Mandrakes. I remember this lesson. Sure enough, they were soon working to repot the foul, baby like creatures. The three of them partnered with Neville, and between Harry, Hermione, and Neville, they soon had their portion completed.
"Very good work today, chaps!" Sprout praised. "Why don't you go wash up, you can leave early today." This left them with a good hour before they had to go to Transfiguration, which they of course wasted doing pretty much nothing, having no homework as of yet.
Later, in Transfiguration, Harry sat, once again hardly paying attention to the lecture. Finally, they were given a practical assignment, turning a beetle into a button.
Easy, Harry thought. But it was not quite as easy as he thought. Harry flicked his wand carelessly, without much power at all. Or so he thought. Instead of merely Transfiguring the beetle, the entire desk on which the beetle lay seemed to fold in on itself, forming into a perfect button. What the hell?! Harry thought.
"Mr. Potter?" asked Professor McGonagall's shocked voice. "What did you do?"
"I'm… not sure," Harry said honestly. "I didn't use that much power."
"You must have used more than you thought, Mr. Potter. Transfiguring something that large into something so small requires a tremendous amount more power," she explained. "Assuming you were not aiming at the table, I'd say that the amount you used was too much for the beetle's small form to contain, and the magic spilled over into the closest object that could hold it." McGonagall waved her wand, and restored the desk to its original form, complete with the beetle. "I must say… to use that much power so casually… I would work on your control, Mr. Potter. It seems that your magic has grown quite a bit in the last few months." She strode off, glancing back at him from time to time.
"Whoa, mate," Ron said. "How did you do that?"
"I dunno," Harry said. "I'm going to try again. Let's see if I can contain it to the beetle this time."
This time, Harry concentrated on his magic, carefully judging exactly how much he'd used previously, and toning it down to a fraction of that amount. This time, the beetle was successfully Transfigured into a button. Harry breathed out. Man. Why do I have so much power? I never had this much trouble controlling it! Not even in the future, where I had much more power than I do now… or maybe… my power followed me. That would explain the excess. My power from the future must have been added to the power of my past self!
By the end of the class, both Harry and Hermione had managed to produce a fair number of perfect coat buttons, and even Ron managed a few with a couple of tips from the two of them.
"What've we got next," Harry asked.
"Defense Against the Dark Arts this afternoon," Hermione piped up instantly. Harry noticed that she had drawn little hearts around where that class was marked on her schedule. Revolted, Harry however refrained from commenting; and from telling her just how big of a hero Lockhart truly was. He had no solid proof as of yet. But Lockhart would slip up, and Harry would take full advantage of it. He knew far more about fighting Dark creatures than that fool ever would. After a break for lunch, the three of them headed down to the Defense classroom, led by Hermione. Harry dragged along in the back, not really wanting to go. He remembered this lesson all too well. Pixies are not something you tend to forget.
The three of them entered and took their seats, the rest of the class filling in around them. Finally, Lockhart entered, long navy robes swishing behind him like some sort of flag.
"Hello class! My name is Professor Lockhart, and it is my job to prepare you for the Darkest creatures and magic known to man," he said, his teeth shining.
How does he do that? Harry wondered. It always looks like he's got a damn spotlight shining on those things. It must be some sort of spell… hmm, he thought as an idea came to him. It was petty, but he was feeling somewhat vindictive. He pulled his wand out of his robes under the table. Pointing it at Lockhart, he used as little power as he could, and wordlessly cast Finite Incantatem. Suddenly, Lockhart's teeth weren't shining anymore, though they remained a dazzling white.
Shit, Harry thought. He actually does take care of his teeth. I was hoping they'd be all yellow. Oh well. Lockhart didn't notice, and neither did anyone else, apparently.
While all that was going on, Lockhart passed out what he had called "a little quiz", but was really an exercise in stroking Lockhart's ego. Not having bothered to even open Lockhart's books, he didn't know any of the answers, and honestly didn't care. Lockhart collected all the papers after about ten minutes.
"Well then," he said cheerfully, "I suppose we should get started on the lesson in earnest."
He lifted a covered cage onto his desk. "Now, don't be afraid, students," he said as he whipped off the covering. Instantly, the pixies inside started swarming against the bars in a bid for freedom.
"Cornish Pixies!" Seamus Finnigan remarked with a laugh.
"I wouldn't laugh if I was you Mr. Finnigan! These pixies can be tricky little creatures!" He paused for a moment, as if to think. Harry readied his wand.
"Let's see what you make of them!" Lockhart said, unlocking the cage, and unleashing a storm of bluish airborne bodies. They did a bit of damage and dumped an inkwell on Seamus' head, but Harry had cast an invisible shield charm around himself and those closest to them, as Lockhart attempted to cast his useless spell, and had his wand thrown out the window. As he scrambled from the room, Harry acted.
"Arresto Maximus!" Harry called out, raising his wand above his head. There was a flash of red light, and instantly, all the pixies remaining froze in midair, falling to the ground slowly. A swift Banishing Charm returned them all to their cage. Realizing he'd taken his little display far enough, he walked up and manually relocked it.
The whole class looked at Harry with a combination of surprise and annoyance.
Seamus voiced their irritation. "If you could do that the whole time, why didn't you?" he demanded, the ink staining his hair black in a stripe down the middle, making him look somewhat like a reverse skunk.
Harry shrugged. "I figured Lockhart would do something. Guess not. Running away certainly doesn't seem like something such an accomplished Defense master would do," he said, sarcasm lacing his voice heavily.
The female portion of the class immediately turned hostile, their gazes burning holes in Harry from their sheer intensity. He shrugged again. "He might be good-looking, but that's no guarantee of his skill, you know." Nothing happened, and Harry walked out, feeling somewhat satisfied. They'd turn around soon enough. He hoped.
The next few days went as well as could be expected. Harry and Ginny stayed up well after the rest of Gryffindor had retired to discuss possible ways of destroying the diary without causing rampant destruction or drawing undue attention. In the future, all but one of the Horcruxes were destroyed with Basilisk venom, which was notoriously difficult to acquire, notably more so for someone who was not of age. Harry certainly had no desire to go down to the Chamber of Secrets, either, though he'd do it if they could find no other way by the end of term. The other way of destroying Horcruxes was not any easier, as it happened to be dragon's fire. Harry and Ron had broken into Gringott's to steal Hufflepuff's cup, and in the midst of the fighting with the Death Eaters who had appeared out of nowhere, Harry had tossed the blasted thing down the gullet of a dragon that lurked down in the depths, apparently as a theft deterrent. The magical fire that dwelled in the dragon's stomach did the rest. One conversation, in particular was very interesting, on the first day of classes, after the incident with the beetle.
"So what did you want to tell me this morning?" he'd said.
"…It's nothing important, really," she replied. "It's just that I'm feeling more… invigorated then ever before too."
"It's our magic," Harry said. Ginny looked at him with curiosity. "At least I think it is. This morning I tried to turn a beetle into a button, and wound up turning the whole desk into one."
She giggled at that.
"Yeah, yeah, laugh it up," he said jokingly. "Anyway, I think our future magic was somehow carted back here with us, and it's been fused with the magic we already had here. It's like an instant power boost, which is why we feel so energized."
Though this was a good thing in the short term, Harry had kept quiet about his own reservations; the possible long-term consequences of this sudden power up.
Of course, Harry's second year could not be complete without the persistence of Colin Creevey, who was just as obsessed as he remembered. The boy's enthusiasm was not nearly as irritating as it had been the first time. After all, he'd seen the poor boy's corpse, which was a very sobering thought, one that only served to harden his resolve.
Speaking of enthusiasm, as the weekend began, Harry was shaken awake after only three hours of sleep by one Oliver Wood.
Harry snapped awake instantly, grabbing his wand from beneath his pillow, and a bright silver flash filled the room. The larger boy went flying into a wall, where he stayed, adhered by Harry's curse.
"Oh, sorry Oliver! You startled me," Harry said, mentally berating himself for his reaction. So much for acting normally. Once Oliver was down, he said, "Er, I came to wake you up for Quidditch practice."
Harry glanced out the window. It was still dark out, it couldn't be later than five in the morning. "Oliver, the sun has even risen yet! Are you daft?"
Oliver had an evil glint in his eye. "C'mon, Harry! It's part of a new training program I was working on this summer. The Cup is ours this year for sure!"
Harry sighed, rubbing his eyes. He really wanted to tell him to bugger off and go back to sleep, but… he hadn't played Quidditch in years. It would be nice to not have to fly under spellfire for once.
"Alright, alright, let me get my broom," Harry said resignedly. He'd have to come up and catch a nap later.
"Good man," Oliver said. "I'll remember to wake you up with a stick from across the room next time."
Harry rolled his eyes as Oliver walked out. Amazingly, no one else had woken up during the whole exchange.
Lucky bastards, he grumbled, grabbing his Quidditch robes and broom, leaving a note on his bed saying where he'd gone. He looked at his old Nimbus Two Thousand.
Never thought I'd be riding this broom again, he thought, rubbing his finger along its polished handle.
Harry was apparently the last to arrive, as everyone else was already in the changing room, looking thoroughly sleep-deprived. Half of them were literally nodding off where they sat.
"And there's Harry! What kept you?" Oliver said briskly. He wasted no time, pulling out a diagram composed of many little arrows on what was clearly a Quidditch field.
Oh, no, Harry thought. I forgot about Wood's lectures! I should have just gone back to sleep.
Sighing in resignation, Harry took a seat next to Fred and Alicia Spinnet, quickly falling asleep as Oliver droned on and on.
"So," Oliver said, startling Harry awake. "Any questions?"
"I've got one," Harry said irritably, cutting off George, who had looked to be about to say something. "Why did we have to get up so ruddy early for this? You could just have easily explained this later in the day, like when everyone was awake."
Wood frowned. "Now see here. We should have won that Quidditch cup last year-"
"-and we won't win it if we're sleep deprived this year," Harry interjected. There was a general murmur of agreement from the rest of the team, and Fred and George actually chuckled.
Wood twitched, obviously somewhat annoyed. "This year, we're going to train harder than ever, and that Quidditch Cup is ours!" He grabbed his broom from where it rested next to him on the lockers. "Let's go give those new moves a try!"
Trudging reluctantly out of the locker room, the rest of the team followed Oliver to the Quidditch pitch, encountering Ron, Hermione, Ginny and surprisingly Luna as they walked into field.
"You guys still aren't done yet?" Ron asked in surprise.
"Done? We haven't even started yet," Harry grumbled, glancing at Ginny. Amusement was plain on her face. He shook his head, kicking off of the ground.
The feeling of flying filled him with euphoria, like he was stretching muscles he hadn't in years. In a way, he supposed he was. The wind roared through his hair as he accelerated to the broom's maximum speed, taking it up high, and plunging down in a steep dive, pulling up five feet from the ground.
"Harry, are you nuts?" Wood shouted.
"I'm not sure!" Harry shouted back. "I'll have to get back to you on that!" He was giddy, and all the sleepiness was gone. He slowed, and heard a familiar clicking noise. His attention was drawn towards the stands, where the boy Colin Creevey sat taking pictures. He shook his head again. That kid was just plain obsessed with him. It was kind of creepy, actually.
"Who's that kid, Harry," Oliver asked as Harry flew by. "He's not a Slytherin, is he?"
"Nah, he's in Gryffindor. Just ignore him," Harry replied. "Besides, why would Slytherin need a spy when they're here themselves?" he said, pointing towards the edge of the field, where seven green-robed figures were traipsing onto the field like they owned the place.
"What the bloody hell? I booked the field!" Wood shouted as he flew off towards them. "Oi! I booked the field for today!" he said as he landed. "You lot can clear off now."
"There's more than enough room for all of us," Marcus Flint said with a sneer.
"I booked the bloody field! Now clear off!" Wood shouted angrily.
"Maybe," said Flint. "But I've got this signed note here from Professor Snape-"
Wood snatched the note, reading it quickly. "…Owing to the need to train their new Seeker? You've got a new Seeker?" Wood said.
Draco Malfoy quickly came to the forefront of the other six members of the team. "That would be me," he bragged. "And look at the little donation my father has made to the team," he said, holding up his clearly brand-new broom in unison with the whole team.
"Nimbus Two Thousand and Ones?" Wood said, shocked.
"Yes," Flint said. "I believe that it puts the old Two Thousand model to shame."
"Oh look who it is," Malfoy said suddenly. "Wee Potty's friends."
Indeed, the four of them were crossing the grass, obviously curious as to the problem.
"What's going on?" Ron asked.
"Oh, nothing," Harry interjected before Malfoy could say anything. "Malfoy here was just showing us the price that Slytherin was paid to lose the next six Quidditch Cups."
Everyone looked at him in surprise. "Trust me," he said. "The day that Malfoy out flies me is the day that I eat my own head."
"That's right," Wood said. "Brooms don't mean anything if the user can't fly."
The Gryffindor team laughed uproariously. The Slytherins glared, their fun spoiled.
"At least my team isn't full of filthy Mudbloods!" Malfoy shouted angrily.
The reaction was instantaneous. Flint was forced to protect Malfoy from Fred and George, and Ron immediately reached for his wand, but he was beaten to the punch. There was a flash of light and a frightened yell, and Harry's Levicorpus spell yanked the blonde boy up by his ankle. He calmly strode towards him, a wordless Shield Charm effortlessly blocking Flint's punch, and making him reel back, clutching his hand.
He leaned in close to the boy's face and said, "Never say that again," his eyes blazing green. Malfoy just looked back, terrified.
Suddenly, there was a another flash and a loud bang, and a jet of green light streaked by his face, the caster's terrible aim missing Harry entirely, but hitting Ron squarely in the chest. A vision of Ron's death the first time around flew past his eyes, and before he knew it he'd hurled a powerful Banisher at the caster, and ran towards where Ron was currently lying on the ground.
"Ron! Are you alright?" Harry said quickly.
Ron twitched and sat up, his face pale, and in a strange moment of déjà vu; he puked up several large slugs. Harry suddenly felt a chill. It seemed like events were repeating themselves….
"Ugh," Harry said. "Hold still. Finite Incantatem." He said, pointing his wand at Ron. The redhead's color immediately returned, and he sat up more easily.
"Thanks, Harry," he said after he recovered. He looked over Harry's shoulder. The Slytherin's were clustered around their fallen teammate, who'd been thrown twenty feet by Harry's Banisher.
Harry's stood up and made his way quickly over to them.
"Ah, my arm's broken bad!" the boy shouted, clutching his right arm. Harry rolled his eyes.
"It's just a hairline fracture," he said, flicking his wand covertly and casting the only bone-mending charm he knew. "Just bring him to Madam Pomfrey, but she's probably going to tell you you're fine."
After they'd left, his friends accosted him. "Harry, after they tell Professor Snape what you did- "
"-They won't be able to do anything," Harry said. "Not without proof."
"If Bole's arm is broken then they'll have all the proof they need!" Hermione said, concerned.
"Bole's arm wasn't broken," Harry said. "I just told them that to make them get off the field. Now, can we practice?"
The others stared at him. "Well, well," George said. "Our ickle Harry is becoming quite the clever lad."
By the time the team finished practice, it was already noon. "Let's go to Hagrid's," Harry suggested as he walked out of the locker room in his normal robes. "He hasn't been introduced to Ginny or Luna yet."
The others nodded agreement, and the five of them walked towards the gamekeeper's hut. Harry passed Ginny and tapped her elbow. She glanced up at him questioningly. "Talk… tonight," he whispered.
Suddenly, Hermione asked the question that had most likely been bothering her since the confrontation with the Slytherins.
"What does 'Mudblood' mean?" she asked quietly.
Ron answered just as quietly. "It's a very nasty word for a Muggle-born. 'Dirty blood', you see. It's just a word that people like the Malfoys have thought up to make themselves seem superior." They were silent the rest of the trip.
They arrived, and Harry knocked. The door was answered almost immediately by an annoyed looking Hagrid. His face brightened as he saw who it was.
"Oh, it's yeh lot. Thought it migh' be Lockhart again." Hagrid said.
"Lockhart?" Ron asked. "What was he doing here?"
"Trying to give me advice or summat about magical creatures, told me a few stories. If a word o' it was true, then I'm a Kneazle." Hagrid said. He glanced at Ginny and Luna.
"So why don' yeh introduce us, Harry," Hagrid said, waving them inside. "I'll make some tea."
The five entered and sat down. "This is Ginny, Ron's sister," Harry said, pointing to her. "And this is Luna Lovegood."
"Hello," the two said politely.
"Ah," Hagrid said. "I knew yer dad, Luna! Nice enough bloke. And o' course I know yer parents, Ginny."
Hagrid quickly finished the tea and placed it and a plate of rock cakes in front of them. Harry politely declined the rock cakes, despite his rumbling stomach. Hagrid glanced at them, noting the troubled look on the faces of Ron and Hermione.
"Wha's wrong?" Hagrid asked.
"It's nothing," Hermione said. "I just… found out about something I'd rather not have known."
"Malfoy called her 'Mudblood'," Harry said at Hagrid's curious look.
"He didn'," Hagrid said, shocked.
"He did," Ron confirmed. "Harry here taught him a lesson though."
"I hope yeh didn' do anythin' that could get yeh in trouble Harry," Hagrid said, concerned.
"Nothing permanent. I just knocked him down a peg," said Harry. "He can't prove anything, because if he tries, I'll tell Dumbledore exactly what he said to instigate my reaction." His eyes narrowed and he turned to Hermione.
"My parents and a lot of other people died fighting that kind of thinking, Hermione," he said. "People like the Malfoys are simply trapped in a different century, believing themselves superior to someone else just because of birth, or station. Don't let someone like him get you down. Just remember, you're a thousand times the person he is, magically and otherwise."
Hagrid nodded. "Tha's righ', Hermione. Don't let them get teh yeh," he said.
"Thanks, guys," Hermione said softly, somewhat reassured.
That night, after everyone else had gone to bed, Harry and Ginny stayed up to talk.
"What'd you want to talk about, Harry," Ginny asked curiously.
"Just that it's getting harder and harder to act like I used to. I'm having trouble hiding my power, like that Banisher I used this morning. I also performed several spells that I shouldn't know yet. I'm honestly surprised that Hermione hasn't asked me about that yet," Harry said.
Ginny snorted. "That's what you wanted to talk about? I'm having the same problem you are, Harry," she said. "Why do you think I didn't scold you about it? Two days ago Professor Flitwick was absolutely amazed that I did a Shield Charm on reflex, and Professor McGonagall was surprised when I performed a Switching Spell perfectly with no incantation."
He laughed. "I wonder how much longer we're going to be able to keep it a secret?" he said. "With this many slip-ups, it won't be too much longer. And I'm still having trouble with my power. My hexes and defensive spells are all fine, but everything else I try always comes out way overpowered the first time I attempt it. I tried performing Incendio to light a candle yesterday, and I melted the whole thing!"
"I'm still having a little trouble with power too," Ginny admitted. "I'm not having nearly as much trouble as you, though. It's a good thing that our magic from the future came back, but it's also kind of a hassle."
Ginny shook her head. "If that's all, I'm going to bed, it's been a long day," she said.
"Not quite," Harry said. "I want you to bring the diary down with you tomorrow. Pass it to me sometime during the day, as covertly as possible."
"Why," Ginny asked. "Do you have an idea about how to destroy it?"
"No, but I have a better idea on where to hide it. Somewhere no one will think to look," Harry said. "The Chamber itself. I can still get in there using Parseltongue."
Ginny nodded. "Okay. See you in the morning," she said, kissing him on the cheek and heading up the stairs to the girls' dormitory.
He rubbed his cheek where she'd kissed him, brooding quietly. He loved her, even now, but it was still too dangerous to let her know. In the future, he was the one who was dangerous, a ticking time bomb. In this time, Voldemort was still out there, and he could use her to strike at him. No, he couldn't risk it. It's like everything prevents us from being together again, he thought bitterly. I just want this to be over with already, so I can live my life the way I want to. He rubbed his eyes and stood. He trudged up the stairs to his four-poster bed, sitting on the edge for a while, before he rose again, and stared into the wall mirror near his trunk. His eyes were as green as ever, but right now, in this vulnerable hour, he could see his true self in those eyes. He felt old, despite his young body. Older than he really was, no matter which way you sliced it. He didn't feel twelve, and he certainly didn't feel twenty-five. He felt more like a hundred.
Quietly, he slipped into bed, still thinking about the future.
He quickly fell asleep, and just as quickly wished he hadn't.
"Yes," the voice of Voldemort's snake whispered. "Hold you, hold you for master…"
"Harry!" Hermione called.
He tore himself away from the snake, grabbing his wand, and Hermione charged into the dark bedroom.
He grabbed her, screaming, "He's coming, we've got to get out of here, its him!"
Too late, as Voldemort himself crashed through the door, aiming his wand as a bald man and a little woman began to leap out the window.
"Avada Kedavra!" he screamed, the green jet of light blazing towards the man who he knew to be the Boy Who Lived in disguise. They twisted and vanished just as the Killing Curse hit. He screamed in rage. Foiled again….
Miles away, the two reappeared in their camp.
"We got away, Hermione," Harry gasped, his scar still burning from being so close.
Hermione didn't respond.
"Hermione," Harry said, his heart filling with dread as he looked down and saw his worst nightmare. Hermione's eyes were wide open and glazed with death… she had taken the Killing Curse meant for him…
"VOOOOLLLDEEEEMOOOOOOORRRRTTTTT!" Harry screamed as his nemesis had only moments ago, only his was a scream filled not only with rage, but also with grief. The ground cracked beneath him, the wind picked up, and his eyes burned red for just a split second, before it died down, and Harry fell atop her body, sobbing.
He remained like that only for a moment, realizing that he had to leave. The Death Eaters would find him soon, as he had used the Dark Lord's name and activated the Taboo location spell. Harry grabbed his friends arm, still crying, and quickly twisted and vanished. He had to bury his friend… and find Ron… he needed to know that the girl he was not-so-secretly in love with… was dead.
"VOOOOLLLLDEEEMORT!" Harry woke up screaming. It took a moment for Harry to realize where he was, when he was. He sobbed for a moment, and then went to the bathroom to compose himself. Luckily, no one had heard his outburst, due to the Silencing Charm he'd placed around his bed in case Wood tried to wake him up early again. Harry washed his face and relieved himself before walking back to his bed. He glanced at the clock. It read four A.M.
He grimaced. No way was he getting back to sleep after that nightmare. Instead, he went downstairs, to the common room, where he sat in front of the dead fire.
Carefully managing his energy, he said "Incendio!" and pointed his wand at the fireplace, creating a roaring fire again. He rubbed at his sleep-filled eyes. He felt like he hadn't slept at all. Restlessly, he moved all around the room for an hour, unable to get comfortable.
Finally, he decided that a little physical training was in order, to get his mind off things. As he did push-ups, he realized how weak his body was.
I need to get in shape, he realized. If I'm going to be running around at all, this is just not going to cut it. He thought about it a moment. In a while maybe I can involve the others, too.
Several hours later, Hermione emerged from upstairs, fully dressed. She looked at Harry, who had passed out on one of the chairs at around five-thirty without meaning to.
"Harry," she said, nudging him.
He awoke instantly. "Wah? Oh, Hermione," he said, looking at her with something like relief in his eyes.
"What are you doing down here?" she asked. "You usually don't get up until ten unless you have to."
"Couldn't sleep," Harry muttered. He looked down at himself. He was still wearing his nightclothes. "I'm going up to change, you want to go down to breakfast when I get back?"
"Sure," Hermione said. "I usually just read when I get down here until you guys get up."
He quickly changed and the two headed down to breakfast. Twenty minutes later, Ginny appeared, looking worried.
He watched her, trying to figure out what was wrong. She saw his look and gave him a glance that said, "Not here."
He nodded and tried to act normally. One by one, the others came down for breakfast, even Luna, who sat at the Gryffindor table for the most part these days. They ate, taking their time, given that there were no classes today. Many people were likely planning to head out and and enjoy the unseasonably warm weather, as it was a bright and sunny day, and strangely hot for mid-September. As they all finished their breakfast and began heading off to plan out their day, Harry and Ginny lingered as long as possible, bringing up the rear. Seeing the opportunity, Ginny whispered four words in Harry's ear that filled him with dread like he hadn't felt since he'd returned to the past.
"The Diary is gone."
A/N: That seemed like a good place to end it. Yeah, this is way late. RL, you know? Not to mention I didn't like the two previous incarnations of this chapter, so I ended up rewriting it, twice. (Hell, I still don't like how it turned out.) I am, once again aware that I cannot rhyme to save my life. I'm glad that this is probably the last time in this story I'll have to come up with an original Sorting Hat song. Well, hope you like it. You know the drill. R&R.
P.S. - I'm also thinking about looking for a beta. If anyone is interested, let me know and I'll get back to you.
P.S.S. - Tell me if there's anything weird with the chapter, text-wise. There were some irregularities with the word count feature. I didn't spot anything different when I skimmed the chapter, but let me know if you see anything.
Disclaimer: The above is a work of fiction that was created for entertainment purposes only. No profit is being made. The characters are the property of J.K. Rowling and her associates.