Harry's first year was complicated and traumatic enough. This year, he has to deal with kidnappings, two Heirs of Slytherin, Saysa's prophecies, and Daphne Greengrass. I have so many plans for Daphne.
For in vain is the net baited
While the bird is looking on.
Hogsmeade Station was filled to bursting. Schoolchildren shouted greetings and goodbyes to one another, their voices blending into an unintelligible cacophony. Owls, tired and irate, hooted impatiently. Cats hissed, fluffing up and glaring at one another. Toads croaked. Occasionally the chaos was interrupted by the blaring of a train.
Remus Lupin flinched as the Hogwarts Express called out again. His ears had always been sensitive; now it seemed their acuity was getting even worse. The werewolf longed to cover his ears, but he was all too conscious of the Aurors guarding him. He did not want to face another snide comment about how "dogs have great hearing."
Unable to suppress a flinch, he glanced around the station again, searching for a head of wild dark hair. Nothing. Remus shifted uncomfortably, wishing that Harry would come soon. He could feel the students' eyes boring into his skull.
The problem was, everyone in Hogwarts knew that Harry Potter had voluntarily- voluntarily!- begun living with a werewolf guardian. They also knew that no Auror would let a werewolf enter King's Cross Station- after all, he might go on a bloodthirsty rampage against defenseless Muggles. The smarter ones had taken this information and reasoned that aforementioned werewolf would have to pick Harry up at Hogsmeade.
Remus shifted again. It really hadn't been too difficult to pick him out of the crowd- most of the adults present were teachers or the residents of Hogsmeade. Coupled with his shabby, vaguely disreputable appearance and the two Aurors flanking him… well, his identity was fairly obvious.
What was keeping Harry?
"Mr. Lupin?" asked a boy's voice. Remus turned around, saw a twelve-year-old black boy, tall for his age, still dressed in the uniform of Slytherin House. The werewolf recognized him: Blaise Zabini, one of Harry's closest friends. He liked Blaise. Blaise wasn't afraid of him.
The young Slytherin seemed uncharacteristically uncomfortable. "Hey, Mr. Lupin."
"Er… hey yourself, Blaise."
Blaise's dark eyes met Remus' own amber orbs. "D'you know what happened?" he demanded.
Remus nodded. Everyone knew about how Voldemort had broken into Hogwarts and tried to steal the Sorcerer's Stone. Details were sketchy, but everyone agreed that he'd been stopped- by Mark Potter, Harry's twin brother.
Blaise sighed, dropping his eyes. "Harry hasn't been taking it well," he cautioned. "He's been… I don't know what's wrong, exactly- he won't talk to me- but I know he hasn't been sleeping well. I think he's been having nightmares. And I know that he and Mark got into a huge row- Mark claims that Harry didn't visit him once when he was recovering from You-Know-Who in the hospital wing. Harry did visit, of course. I even went with him once or twice, but Mark…." The boy's face hardened. "I personally think it's a ploy to save face. If the evil Slytherin twin didn't visit his perfectly Gryffindor brother, who can blame Mark for abandoning him?"
"What?" Remus asked blankly.
"Mark had to stay in the hospital wing because he was wounded while fighting You-Know-Who. Harry-"
"No," Remus interrupted, "I understood that part. But… are they even speaking?"
"Nope," sneered Blaise. "Mark doesn't want to listen to Harry's 'dirty Slytherin lies.' Harry's been trying to start up a conversation, but…" He shrugged helplessly.
The train whistled again, this time more insistently. Remus jumped, his hands moving involuntarily for his ears. That hurt!
Blaise's eyes widened. "I think I have to board now, Mr. Lupin," he said quickly.
The werewolf nodded. "Have a good summer, Blaise."
The boy didn't answer; he had already vanished into the crowd, leaving Remus alone with his thoughts.
He couldn't believe it. Remus had always liked Harry better than Mark- of course, he was slightly prejudiced, being Harry's godfather- but Mark hadn't seemed the kind of person who would abandon his brother. But, the wizard reflected, I'm not a good judge of character. Sirius fooled me, too.
He sighed heavily- and nearly jumped out of his skin as the train whistled again.
He couldn't wait for Harry to arrive.
It was good to be out of Hogwarts.
Harry breathed deeply, enjoying the fresh summer air. The chatter of his schoolmates, the screeching of the train, and the noises of the pets all washed over his head. He didn't notice them.
"Harry!" wailed a voice. Harry grinned; he knew that Sisith hated loud noises. The young Parselmouth took out his wand, pointed it at the pocket where the serpent hid, and mumbled, "Muffliato." The serpent's relief was almost palpable.
Harry's deep green eyes peered around the crowded station, searching for his godfather and guardian. He placed his wand away, instinctively feeling for the other object in that pocket. A hard shape greeted his hand; the Sorcerer's Stone was safe. He shivered slightly, remembering what he'd gone through to earn it. Mark's body splayed on the floor, Voldemort's demonic eyes on the wrong side of his skull… and the horrifying revelation that Voldemort was none other than Tom Marvolo Riddle, whose memories Harry himself possessed.
The memories had been benign at first, even helpful. Of course, then he hadn't even realized that they were memories. Harry had thought that the Sorting Hat had somehow imparted all its knowledge into his mind, giving him an amazing repertoire of spells, hexes, and magical lore. Months later, when he'd finally realized the memories' true nature, he'd only known that they belonged to Tom Marvolo Riddle, a brilliant Slytherin from the 1940s. All the memories Harry had received at that point had been from Riddle's school years.
Now, though, he was beginning to remember other things. It was almost as though knowing Tom's other name had unplugged a dam; horrible memories haunted his dreams, flashed through his waking thoughts. Harry often longed for a Dreamless Sleep potion, but knew far too well that he had to deal with these images with his own strength.
His strength was already taxed to the limit. What child could witness the death of his parents through their killer's eyes, time after time after time?
But he had made his peace with those images, or at least tried to. It was hard, of course, but- he tried. Was trying. That had to count for something.
Harry sighed. Who was he kidding? He was on the road to acceptance, but that road was filled with bumps and potholes. Sometimes he could almost see the end; sometimes, the road seemed endless.
Today was an endless day. He both dreaded and longed for his meeting with Remus. Seeing the werewolf would remind him of his parents- and of the werewolves Voldemort had recruited.
Harry shuddered slightly as Fenrir Greyback's face flashed through his mind. Enough wasting time, he told himself. Are you going to actually find him, or will you just stand here like a useless lump?
"Harry!" his godfather's warm voice called back. The boy's answering grin was forced. He would not let Voldemort's memories spoil this reunion. He would not.
The werewolf stiffened at Harry's approach, his jaw clenched in concentration. Harry slowed, concerned. He'd almost forgotten the bizarre effect he had on werewolves: for some reason, his presence seemed to rouse their inner beast. He had no idea why; perhaps it was because he was a Parselmouth. But that was unlikely. Voldemort was a Parselmouth too, and Fenrir Greyback's pack had never reacted like this to him.
No. He was not going to think about them. He wasn't going to think about anything except how wonderful the summer would be. Remus knew how to make the Animagus Potion, and Blaise's mother was getting married, and he could visit Saysa the basilisk and Norberta the dragon as much as he wanted.
Remus smiled tightly. Apparently he'd gotten the wolf under control again. "Ready to go, Harry?" he asked kindly.
The boy nodded, grinning. It would be a good summer.
"Do you want me to carry something?"
"Er- no thanks." Remus frowned slightly. "Maybe Hedwig will want to go with you." The owl hooted in agreement. Werewolf and wizard smiled. The road shortened.
Maybe, Harry thought wonderingly, it really would be a good summer.
Dobby the house-elf had not been looking forward to the summer. Mistress Cissy was sometimes lenient when her husband and son were absent, and that leniency had appeared more often while Master Draco was off at school. Now that Master Draco was back, though, he could expect the days of relative ease to end.
Head hanging low, the house-elf expertly wove through the parlor, deftly balancing a tray of tea and cakes above his pointed ears. Mistress Cissy liked the little lemon bars. Master Lucius liked the Darjeeling tea. Hopefully these treats would assuage them for a little while, at least.
Unfortunately, it did not look very likely. Master Lucius' face was angry. Dobby's ears fell.
At the moment, the two Malfoys were discussing punishment for their son. Standing there with the tea tray, Dobby learned that Master Draco had gotten worse grades than someone called Hermione Granger, a Muggle-born (Dobby refused to use the word Mudblood. If all masters were like his masters, being pureblooded didn't deserve respect! Of course, now he would have to go step on broken glass again…).
Dobby already liked this Granger girl.
The wizards' conversation quickly developed into long soliloquies about how Muggle-borns were destroying the Wizarding World. Dobby hoped they would destroy it (oh, more broken glass).
"Something needs to be done," Master Lucius concluded quietly. His cold gray eyes stared at the cooling Darjeeling.
Dobby suppressed a groan. It sounded like Master Lucius had a plan. Mistress Cissy thought so too. "What are you plotting?" she asked quietly.
Master Lucius looked up. "It has been over ten years since the Dark Lord fell," he said slowly. "Ten long years."
Mistress Cissy nodded, not seeming particularly impressed. "I know this."
"Do you remember, Narcissa, what he gave to me just a few months before he fell?"
Her brow furrowed. "Yes. A small blank book, innocuous enough, but powerfully enchanted." She frowned. "If it were sent to Hogwarts, it would reopen the Chamber of Secrets."
Dobby suppressed a gasp. The Chamber! He had heard dozens of stories about it, each more unlikely than the last, but all the stories agreed on one fact: if the Chamber of Secrets were opened, Hogwarts would be purged of Muggle-borns. It would be genocide!
Master Lucius, though, didn't seem to care. In fact, he was smiling! "Perhaps when the Chamber is opened, the monster will destroy that thrice-cursed Mark Potter as well," he mused.
"And his brother," murmured Mistress Cissy. "The boy is a disgrace to Slytherin House."
"Yes," agreed Master Lucius. "Perhaps then Draco will regain his power." He reached for the teapot, frowned. It was empty. "Dobby! More Darjeeling!"
The house-elf jumped. He'd been so intent on the wizards' conversation that he'd completely forgotten about his duties. "Y-yes, Master," he mumbled, wondering how to punish himself for this. "Right away, Master." He scurried off to the kitchen, hands shaking.
Over the next few days, Dobby turned his attention to Master Draco. The young master was sullen and ill-tempered, having been grounded in punishment for his academic defeat. The boy would often complain to his servant about the injustice of life: about Harry Potter, Mark Potter, Mudbloods tarnishing the "good Malfoy name" (like it needed to be tarnished!), anything and everything. It was a measure of his irritation that he said so much. Dobby remained quiet and attentive, soaking up every fact about Mark Potter that he could.
When Dobby learned that Mark Potter was staying in Hogwarts for the summer, he couldn't suppress a cry of despair. Master Draco simply glared at him. "Go iron your ears, elf," he ordered coldly. Dobby mumbled something about obeying the young master and ran off to do so. The House Oaths which bound him were heavy as chains.
Later that night, his ears burnt and bandaged, the house-elf jerked up. Hadn't Master Draco mentioned a brother?
He had to learn where the brother lived.
"You're sure this is right?" Harry asked nervously, staring at the putrid potion in front of him.
Remus nodded. "Positive. Your father and… Sirius… wondered that too, at this stage. This is actually how I found out they were trying to become Animagi. They wanted to keep it a surprise, but I was much better at Potions than they were, so when it looked like the Potion wasn't going well, they came to me for help." He chuckled slightly. "I made them go through every single step five or six times, trying to figure out what went wrong, before we finally realized that it was supposed to look this way."
His godson still seemed dubious. "If you say so, Remus." He glanced at the… thing… in the cauldron, then at his godfather. "What next?"
Remus looked back into the book, a birthday present from James. His amber eyes scanned the instructions carefully. "It looks like nothing. The potion should 'remain heated for two moons, stirred every twilight.' Remind me to st-"
In an instant, the two wizards were on their feet. Harry's wand materialized in his hand, pointing threateningly in the direction of the sound. Remus' wand was in the Auror barracks, but he would not be helpless. His inner wolf rose up, snarling protectively. Moony would not let this cub be harmed!
Softly, stealthily, he padded towards the noise. None were allowed in his den, none but himself and his guests! Whoever had made that sound was an invader, a threat, and he would-
No! What was he doing? Remus froze as the wolf retreated, stomach and fists clenching. It had always shown an unhealthy interest in Harry- that was why they were making the Animagus Potion- but it had never been this bad.
There was no doubt about it. His problem was getting worse. Much worse, and quickly.
"Remus? You okay?"
He started. "Yes. Just… you stay behind. It's probably just Tyr, but…"
"It's not Tyr," Harry muttered.
"Harry Potter?" called a voice. "Harry Potter?"
Godfather and godson exchanged glances. They had expected stealth, not openness. "D'you know that voice?" Harry whispered. Remus shook his head. The boy raised his voice. "Stay where you are, and keep your hands up!"
"Give me your wand, Harry," Remus ordered. The boy looked startled. "I know more defensive spells than you. Give me your wand." For a second, the child looked amused, but he handed the object over.
It was with some consternation that the two realized all their preparations had been for a small, raggedy-looking house-elf. He was dressed in what appeared to be a large pillowcase. Big green eyes watched them warily. "You… you is Harry Potter? Mark Potter's brother?"
"Er- yes," replied Harry, looking just as nonplussed as Remus felt. "And you would be…?"
The elf's already bulbous eyes widened. "Harry Potter treats Dobby as an equal?"
"Of course," Remus butted in. Dobby blinked blankly at him. "Ah- I'm Remus Lupin. Harry's godfather." He held out his hand.
Dobby burst into tears. "Remus Lupin treats Dobby as an equal! Oh, Remus Lupin is a great and kind wizard!"
Remus began to worry about the poor thing's sanity. Harry shot him a bemused look. "No offense, Dobby-" ("Harry Potter is not wishing to offend Dobby! Harry Potter is as great and good as his brother!") "-but house-elves aren't exactly common here. Why exactly have you come?" He sighed at Dobby's tears. It seemed the elf was a bit too emotional to respond. "Remus, do you have a hankie?" That, of course, set Dobby off again.
The threesome made a bizarre sight: a werewolf, a wizard, and a hysterical house-elf sitting at Remus' scarred old table. It sounded like a bad joke.
"Dobby has come to warn you," the house-elf finally announced.
Harry's eyes sharpened, but it was Remus who answered. "Warn us about what?"
"Warn my brother about what?" Harry asked quietly. Dobby jumped. "Yes, I know that part of your message, at least, is for Mark."
"Dobby… Dobby has a warning," the elf repeated. "Harry Potter must take his brother out of Hogwarts! Mark Potter must not go to Hogwarts."
Harry's eyes narrowed. "Why not?" Remus felt a bit left out. He settled back to watch the encounter.
Dobby shuddered. "Bad things will happen this year at Hogwarts, Harry Potter sir. Very bad things. Harry Potter must take his brother out of Hogwarts before it is too late!"
"It's a bit late for that," Harry observed wryly. "And anyways, why should I trust you? Mark just defeated Voldemort-" Dobby shuddered "-again a few weeks ago. His Death Eaters wouldn't want him in school- much easier to get him if he's outside."
Poor Dobby looked ready to faint. "Dobby did not- Dobby would not- Mark Potter is in danger! Harry Potter must save him! Terrible things will happen in Hogwarts this year, and Mark Potter must not die. He is too great, too good, to lose."
"Which is why I don't want him out of Hogwarts. I trust Dumbledore no farther than I can throw him, but he won't let Mark die."
Dobby looked around wildly, his eyes finally settling on Remus. "You is a werewolf, yes, sir?" Remus nodded. The house-elf looked miserable. "We house-elves have a saying, that werewolves can scent destiny. Please, Remus Lupin sir, tell Harry Potter that Dobby is not lying." The big eyes were moist again.
Remus blinked. That was a new one. Scent destiny? He'd heard scent blood, scent fear, scent weakness, but never destiny. Harry muttered something to himself. It sounded like "protectors," but that was absurd. "I'm afraid that I can't, Dobby," he said gently. If he could 'scent destiny,' he would have known that Sirius was a liar. Instead, he'd been concerned about Peter- poor, brave Peter, who had never heard his apology.
The elf crumpled. "Dobby has failed," he moaned. "Now Dobby will have to iron his ears for nothing."
"Iron your ears!" yelled Harry and Remus, jumping off their seats. Dobby looked startled. Harry looked at Remus, his expression pained. Remus knew how he felt. The ironing could be because Dobby had failed to convince Harry, or because he really was telling the truth.
Remus had an idea. "Dobby, if you want us to believe you, you have to tell us another way to stop this plot from being carried out."
Dobby looked sick. He glanced wildly at Remus, then at Harry, and finally at the walls. Then, with a wild shriek of "Bad Dobby!" he charged over and began banging his head against it.
Both wizards leapt on the elf, who was still screaming his mantra. "I believe you, all right Dobby!" Harry bellowed.
The elf turned his agonized face to Harry. "August eighth!" he screamed, clutching the boy's shirt. "Diagon Alley!"
Then he vanished without a trace.
Now I feel really bad for Dobby.
Wow, I feel pretty useless at this point, for any who actually bothered to read up to this point. Give Antares a hand, this chapter was error free as far as I can tell. So give her hand for good self-editing.
Read and review!