A/N: Sorry this has taken so long. I've had a rough year so far. Health issues have plagued my family. Both my wife and I have had surgery as well as our new kitten. I've also had school and a writer's block from hell trying to keep me from completing this chapter. The block is now gone and everyone is healthy again and the semester is almost over so hopefully updates will be quicker from now on. I wasn't able to get where I wanted with this chapter but I'll keep at it until this story is complete. I'll be focusing my attention on my other horribly neglected story 'All's Fair' first but then I'll get to work on the next chapter .
Now to answer some reviews:
To Blah: I don't want my readers to empathize with Dumbledore. I want them to hate his guts. I have not made Dumbledore like Voldemort. Voldemort is like Darth Vader (Assuming you're familiar with star wars) obsessed with power and willing to do anything to get it. He is brutal and unforgiving to both his enemies and followers. Dumbledore is like Emperor Palpatine (Again Star Wars), working within the system to orchestrate his rise to power. Palpatine created a galactic incident on his home planet then became the biggest and loudest voice criticizing the galactic republics lack of action resulting in the removal of the current chancellor (Minister of Magic in Harry Potter terms) then got himself elected to take his place. He would later orchestrate a galactic civil war to get the republic senate to grant him special powers and declare martial law. He used those powers to eliminate his enemies the Jedi then declared himself emperor while claiming that the real villains were the jedi. Dumbledore similarly used his great charisma to make people think he was the second coming of Merlin while secretly plotting to take over the world with his partner/lover Grindelwald. Grindelwald was more like Voldemort and just wanted to force the world to capitulate while Dumbledore saw the benefits of subtlety. Eventually their disagreement resulted in them parting ways. Dumbledore continued to build his reputation while Grindelwald started his war against the world. The world eventually turned to Dumbledore to save them and he did so making him practically a god in their eyes not unlike how they would view Harry Potter later on. He used that adulation to gain the positions of power and influence he now holds. As time passed he became the wizened leader that everyone turned to for answers and now stand as the ultimate authority on magic not just in Britain but also the world. In short, Dumbledore was willingly given power by the people without having to fire a single curse. As for the murders, Dumbledore was angry at being duped and wanted to take it out on someone. Being alone in that country house afforded him the opportunity to let his darker side out without anyone finding out about it. Also Dumbledore has one glaring character flaw; he is unable or unwilling to share his secrets with anyone so it is unlikely he would trust anyone to handle anything he considers important. Therefore he would handle Harry and Sirius personally and wouldn't wait and take the chance of it getting too far out of hand. He would be subtle, if possible, in his approach, but not patient.
To alichi: The book is purposely trying to avoid changing too much too fast so events are happening much like they did in canon but there will be changes as this story continues and will veer slowly but surely away from canon. Most of the major canon events will still happen but the circumstances will be different.
To Katzztar: You asked for it, you got it. The French family was not the Delacours.
Now, on with the show:
Harry Potter was so angry he had half a mind to throw the book into the fireplace and be done with it. It had never told him what was supposed to happen on Halloween and he didn't know how he'd gotten through it in one piece.
Harry woke up early Halloween morning after sleeping fitfully all night. He got ready for the day and headed to the common room hoping to find Hermione there. He found her reading by the fireplace and found a seat nearby and pulled a book out of his bag. He pretended to read but was really watching her. Since the book hadn't told him what was going to happen, he'd decided to essentially be her shadow so he could keep an eye on her. The only thing he knew was that something would happen that would finally make them friends. The book had informed him that it was Ron, with the help of compulsion charms no doubt, which had kept them from becoming friends sooner.
His dislike for her had caused several arguments that had kept them distant if not outright refusing to speak to each other but that all changed after Halloween. The three became inseparable and would later be dubbed 'The Golden Trio'. He had a feeling that it wasn't a nice quiet chat that caused the change. No, he was quite sure that it was something a lot worse. He knew Voldemort was in the castle and wouldn't put it past him to do something that might put students in danger. Since he was sure whatever it was would somehow involve Hermione, He'd decided staying close to her was the best way to make sure he ended up where he was supposed to. He didn't think it would be too difficult since they had all their classes together but didn't know what he would do if she decided to go to the library. He was quite sure there was no way Ron would willingly go there and would expect Harry via the charm to agree with him.
He sat there watching her turning his gaze down to the book he held open in front of him every time she looked up. He silently tried to will her to stay there until Ron came down. He didn't want to have to explain to Ron why he didn't wait for him but would if he had to. Sometime that day Hermione would be in danger, he was sure of it. It was far more important to be there for her than making the git happy. He wasn't sure if he could come up with a good excuse but either way he wasn't going to let her down. Thankfully he didn't need to worry.
She seemed quite content to just sit there and showed no interest in going down to breakfast. It wasn't long until Ron made his appearance and suddenly he was afraid the redhead would make him go to breakfast and she would still be sitting there. Luckily he made his presence known in his usual loud way causing her to look up. There was clearly a look of distaste on her face when she caught sight of him. She quickly closed her book, put it in her bag and stomped out of the common room.
He quickly suggested going to breakfast and Ron immediately agreed. Harry led him out of the common room at a near run hoping she hadn't gone to the library. Ron commented on his pace and he passed it off as being very hungry. The redhead seemed to except that excuse and actually started going even faster as apparently he really was starving; not that that was anything new for him. Harry had never seen anyone eat so much in his life and he lived with two gluttonous whales; his cousin and uncle. He mentally breathed a sigh of relief when he saw her sitting at the Gryffindor table munching on some toast with a book open in front of her. He quickly made his way to the table and started filling his plate while Ron sat across from him and did the same thing. He ate quickly so he would be done when she was then washed it down with pumpkin juice.
She again seemed to get lost in the book she was reading so his haste wasn't necessary. While she read; he chatted with Neville while Ron continued to stuff his face ignorant of anything else going on around him. Soon breakfast was over and he, Neville and Ron stood up to head to class. When he noticed Neville with them, Ron gave him a dirty look that the other boy missed but Harry saw it. It didn't really surprise him but he didn't dwell on it as he had more important things to worry about at the moment like their bushy haired fellow first year Gryffindor. He turned to check on her and saw that she was only a few steps behind them. Their eyes met and he gave her a smile which she reciprocated then he returned his attention to Ron and Neville and continued on to class.
The morning classes went by without incident making Harry more and more nervous as the day went on. He was hardly able to eat anything at lunch as his nerves were so frayed even the thought of food made him nauseous. After lunch was charms with professor Flitwick and Harry quickly realized that what he was waiting for had probably arrived. Flitwick separated them into pairs and the moment he put Hermione and Ron together he knew that this could and probably would spell trouble. He was proven correct as about halfway through class Hermione began yelling at the redhead who was swinging his wand wildly in a vain attempt to levitate his feather. The attention of most of the class was quickly drawn to the spectacle as she told him what he was doing wrong in her normal bossy fashion.
Of course, that was never going to sit well with him especially with the whole class watching. He crossed his arms, a look of outrage on his face, and not too kindly challenged her to do it. She huffed then proceeded to wave her wand fluidly and say the incantation just as she'd instructed him to and almost immediately her feather began to rise. The professor applauded her success and called everyone's attention to it apparently unaware they were already watching. Harry didn't miss the dirty looks that were once again aimed her way or that Ron rested his chin and arms on his books and pouted for the rest of the class. He also didn't miss the hurt on her face and made sure to catch her eye and smile while giving her thumbs up. Neville did the same and she gave them both a grateful smile in return.
After class Ron caught up with him and Harry could tell an angry explosion was imminent. He tried to stave it off by bringing up quidditch in hopes of distracting him but it didn't work.
"It's no wonder no one can stand her!" he shouted in the hallway outside of class. "She's a nightmare honestly."
Harry was about to tell him he was wrong and to shut up when he heard a sniffle as someone knocked into him. He turned and saw that it was Hermione. As she moved away he was sure he'd seen tears on her face. He rounded on the redhead once again feeling the urge to slug him.
"I think she heard you Ron," Harry said barely controlling his anger. That control was put to the test when the redhead smirked clearly unconcerned.
"So," he responded. "She must have noticed she's got no friends."
He then seemed to realize he had an audience and quickly changed his expression to make it look like he was uncomfortable or even remorseful about what happened but Harry knew it was a lie. He looked away before he gave in to the urge to pummel the git and noticed that everyone seemed to be nodding their heads in agreement with him. Everyone, that is, except Neville. He was glaring at Ron and Harry thought he might be considering attacking the redhead as well. Harry wanted to run after her but he'd had enough of this attitude everyone seemed to have toward her and was determined to put an end to it.
"You're wrong Ron," he said as calmly as he could manage at the moment. "She has at least one friend."
"Who?" He asked incredulously the smirk returning to his face as he looked around.
"Me," Harry answered simply.
Ron immediately met his eyes the shock clearly evident on his face.
"What?" Ron replied loudly. "You can't be serious mate!"
"I am Ron," He respond then turned his gaze to the rest of his fellow Gryffindors who were paying rapt attention to their exchange and looked equally shocked. "I'm done putting up with everyone treating her like rubbish. She's a good person and a fellow Gryffindor so the next time you feel like bullying her or saying something rude to or about her just remember she now has a friend that will stand up for her."
"Make that two friends!" Harry turned to see that it was Neville that had spoken. He'd moved from his earlier position and was now standing next to him a determined look on his face. Again Harry saw a flash of the Neville the book said he would become as he stood unflinchingly facing down his housemates. He gave Neville a grateful smile before turning his gaze back to Ron and continuing.
"That includes you Ron," he said firmly not caring that his ears were turning red again in preparation for another explosion. "I won't listen to you bad mouth her anymore. Now if you'll excuse me I have a friend to check on."
He turned and started after her with Neville following him. They'd gone about fifteen feet when Ron finally spoke.
"Harry! What are you doing?" he yelled. "We have another class to get to!"
He turned and saw that the explosion had been averted by the shock of seeing him walk away. Harry looked at him as if he'd said the sky was purple with pink polka dots.
"I already told you Ron," he said a little impatiently. "I'm going to check on Hermione."
He turned around again only to have the redhead yell his name even louder.
"Look Ron," he responded annoyed. "I don't have time for this. Head to class. I'll meet you there."
He then continued down the corridor and around a corner ignoring Ron as he continued to call out. They weren't able to find her and he hoped to see her in the next class but she wasn't there nor did he see her for the rest of the afternoon. It wasn't until they were heading down to dinner that he found out where she was. He overheard Parvati telling Lavender that she was crying in the girls bathroom and wanted to be left alone. Harry was angry that they'd just left her there. Ron again tried to look unhappy about it but he could see that the redhead was enjoying hearing how upset she was. Harry glared at him when he looked away and noticed Neville doing the same. He was walking behind them and Harry knew he'd heard what Parvati had said as well.
Throughout the afternoon Ron had acted as if the incident had never happened. He'd never asked if Harry had found her but Harry noted he was careful not to insult her showing he hadn't really forgotten. They entered the great hall and began to fill their plates. The decorations were breathtaking but Harry didn't take much notice of them. He kept his eyes on the open doors hoping she would show up soon. He shared a look with Neville who was sitting across from him and was fairly certain there was a nonverbal agreement made between them to head to the girls bathroom if she didn't show up to the feast. When the doors finally opened he started to rise and go meet her only to be disappointed to see that it was professor Quirrell.
He ran toward the head table screaming about a troll being in the dungeon before fainting in an extremely theatrical fashion. There was only a moment of shock before panic ensued as students began screaming and running toward the exit. They were stopped by a loud voice yelling 'Silence!' Turning Harry saw that the speaker was Dumbledore. He immediately implored everyone to not panic then ordered the prefects to escort the students to their dormitories while the teachers were to follow him to the dungeon. Percy soon had them rounded up and on their way back to the tower. Harry didn't pay much attention to Ron's brother and began purposely walking slowly so as to fall behind the rest of the Gryffindors. Ron seemed annoyed at how slowly he was walking probably wanting to get to the common room quickly so he could get back to eating again. When they reached a spot where Harry thought he could get away from the watchful prefect, he stepped out of line and pulled Ron with him. Ron seemed even more annoyed as he ripped his arm free from Harry's grasp.
"What are we stopping for?" he asked impatiently.
"I've just thought," he said thoughtfully. He wasn't feeling thoughtful at all. From the moment Quirrell fainted he knew what he had to do. What the book hadn't told him; save Hermione from the troll. "Hermione."
"What about her?" Ron asked and there was no mistaking the sneer that appeared on his face.
"She doesn't know about the troll." He answered wanting to knock that sneer off his face with a beater's bat. The urge got stronger as a smile appeared on the redhead's face. Harry was sure he was enjoying the thought of what that troll would do to her. Then he apparently remembered what Harry had said before because the smile was quickly replaced with a look of shock.
"That's not our problem mate," he responded clearly not interested in helping her. "Besides, the troll is in the dungeon not up here. Dumbledore's probably already taken care of it and she's probably in the common room enjoying the feast right now. Come on; let's head up to the tower. If we're lucky, my prat of a brother will never notice we were gone."
He then turned and took a few steps in the direction of the common room obviously thinking the matter settled until he realized Harry wasn't following and turned back to face him.
"Come on mate, let's go," he said clearly annoyed but Harry simply shook his head.
"I'm going to the girl's bathroom to make sure she's okay," Harry replied firmly. "With or without you."
Ron didn't respond right away and stood there for a few moments clearly having an internal debate before meeting his eyes again.
"Fine," he said finally. "But Percy better not catch us."
With that they headed down a different corridor unaware that someone had seen them step out of line and decided to follow them. They'd only gone a little ways when they heard footsteps behind them. Ron immediately panicked and whispered 'Percy' while pulling him behind a large stone griffin. It wasn't Percy; it was Snape.
He was heading in a direction that was clearly not toward the dungeon. As they began to move again, Harry realized he was heading toward the third floor but, at that moment, he didn't care what Snape was up to. He just wanted to find Hermione but he did make a mental note of it for later consideration. They'd only made it a little further when Ron stopped him again.
"Do you smell something?" he asked before Harry could complain about the delay.
Harry breathed deeply through his nose and immediately regretted it. There was something foul in the air and it seemed to be getting stronger with each passing moment. Then they heard a growl and quickly hid in the shadows. It wasn't long until the troll came into view. Harry had never seen a troll before and, after seeing this one, never wanted to see another. The troll went past them, and moved on down the corridor until it came to an open door. The creature paused momentarily before ducking and disappearing through it.
As they approached the door, they saw that there was a key in it. An idea quickly formed in his head as they crept closer to the door. If they could trap the troll in the room, he might be able to get Hermione to safety without having to face it. As soon as he got close enough, he lunged at the door to close it quickly turning the key to lock it. They'd only gone a few steps from the door when a scream let Harry know he'd made a big mistake. Turning back around, he realized just how big of a mistake it was. He'd been paying so much attention to the troll and the door that he'd missed the sign indicating what the room was; the girl's bathroom.
He quickly unlocked the door praying that he hadn't gotten her killed and rushed in. Hermione looked frozen with fear while the troll used its club to destroy sinks as it moved toward her. Harry began throwing debris at it and yelling to distract it while moving towards Hermione as well. He heard Ron doing the same thing and turned to see that he'd stayed by the door. The troll seemed confused until something large and metal hit its head causing it to turn back toward the door. It wasn't Ron that had thrown it; it was Neville.
Apparently, he'd noticed them step out of line and had followed them. The troll immediately started moving toward them. Ron took a step back and Harry thought he might run at any moment but Neville took a step forward glaring at the troll as if daring it to try something. Harry, meanwhile, called to Hermione but she was still out of it and didn't respond. Deciding Neville and Ron needed his help more at that moment, he ran up behind the troll and jumped on its back managing to wrap his arms around its neck causing his wand to go up its nose.
The creature howled in pain and began swinging its club wildly trying to remove him. Neville began throwing more debris at it this time aiming for its legs trying to do what he could to help. Ron just stood there until Harry yelled at him to do something. He then pointed his wand at the troll and said clearly (and, Harry noted, exactly as Hermione had instructed in class) 'wingardium leviosa'.
Suddenly, the club flew out of the troll's grasp and hovered above it. It only hung there for a few moments before crashing down on its head. It swayed back and forth a few times before falling face first to the floor. Harry stood up then pulled his wand out of its nose and wiped it clean on the troll's trousers. It was then that Hermione finally spoke.
"Is it dead?" She asked as she walked toward them.
"I don't think so," Harry replied. "I think it's just been knocked out." He then turned to Neville. "Thanks for the help Nev," he then noticed Ron's ears turning red and decided to try to diffuse the oncoming explosion if he could. "Good job on that spell Ron," that seemed to placate the redhead so Harry turned his attention back to Hermione as Neville spoke.
"No problem mate," Neville replied then looked at Hermione. "You okay Hermione?" he asked before Harry could.
"I'm fine Neville," she replied.
They didn't get a chance to say anything more as they suddenly heard the sounds of several footsteps indicating either a group of people or something with a lot of legs was approaching at a fast pace. It was only a few seconds later that three professors charged through the door. Professor McGonagall was first followed by Snape and then Quirrell. Quirrel let out a small yelp then sat down on a toilet holding his heart at the sight of the troll while Snape examined the creature. McGonagall ignored it completely as she focused on them and immediately demanded an explanation.
"What on earth were you thinking of?" she asked looking angrier than they'd ever seen her. "You're lucky you weren't killed! Why aren't you in your dormitories?"
Harry noticed Ron still had his wand up probably still impressed with himself while Neville was back to being the scared little boy he'd first met. Apparently their head of house scared him far more than a troll ever could. He was about to answer when Hermione jumped in.
"Please Professor McGonagall," she pleaded. "They were looking for me."
"Miss Granger?" McGonagall asked clearly shocked at what she'd heard.
"I'd gone looking for the troll," she said quickly. "Because I-I thought I could deal with it on my own, you know, because I'd read all about them."
There was no missing the shock on Ron's face at hearing her lie for them. It was enough to get him to finally lower his wand and pay attention to what was going on as she continued.
"If they hadn't found me I'd be dead now," she spoke earnestly. "Harry stuck his wand up its nose while Neville threw things at it to distract it then Ron knocked it out with its own club. They didn't have time to come and fetch anyone. It was about to finish me off when they arrived."
Harry tried to look like this story was the truth for her sake and noticed Ron and Neville doing the same.
"Well, in that case," McGonagall responded thoughtfully while staring at all four of them. "Miss Granger! You foolish girl! How could you think of tackling a mountain troll on your own?"
Hermione hung her head as their head of house spoke. Harry wanted to speak up and tell the truth but quickly realized that this was Hermione's way of paying them back for coming for her so he kept silent as McGonagall continued.
"Miss Granger, five points will be taken from Gryffindor for this," she said fixing Hermione with a stern glare. "I'm very disappointed in you. If you're not hurt at all, you'd better get off to Gryffindor tower. Students are finishing the feast in their houses."
Hermione left and she turned her gaze on the three of them. Ron gulped while Neville began to visibly shake in fear. Harry felt nervous as well but didn't care what happened to him at that point. Hermione was safe. That was all that mattered to him.
"Well I still say you were lucky," she said much more calmly this time. "But not many first years could have taken on a fully grown mountain troll. You each win Gryffindor five points. Professor Dumbledore will be informed of this. You may go."
Ron and Neville both calmed visibly when they heard they were getting points for this but that didn't stop them from leaving as fast as they could as soon as they were dismissed. Harry followed them and no one spoke until they were two floors up.
"We should have gotten more than fifteen points," Ron grumbled.
Harry couldn't believe he was worried about that rather than being relieved that they weren't in trouble. He also realized that the redhead had made a mistake and decided to correct him.
"Ten, you mean," Harry responded. "Once she's taken off Hermione's."
"Good of her to get us out of trouble like that," He replied. "Mind you, we did save her."
"She might not have needed saving," Harry argued. "If we hadn't locked the thing in with her."
"Not to mention she wouldn't have been in there at all if you hadn't hurt her feelings."
It was the first time Neville had spoken. His words were rather blunt but there was no anger in his tone. Ron turned toward him and Harry could tell he was taking offense anyway but Harry stepped in before he could get a full head of steam going.
"He's right Ron," Harry said quickly causing the redhead to turn his glare on him. "I saw you looking uncomfortable when you heard she'd been crying." He knew Ron had faked that but knew things would go better for all of them if he thought he'd fooled them. "But it doesn't matter now. You more than made up for it by going after her tonight."
He really hadn't but Harry had no desire to see another fight. Neville didn't look like he completely agreed with him either but nodded his head anyway. That seemed to placate Ron and they continued on and soon came to the portrait of the fat lady. They all said the password at the same time and entered the common room. It was packed and noisy as everyone was eating the food that had been sent up except for Hermione who stood alone by the door. Suddenly Harry felt embarrassed though he didn't know why. He noticed the others were acting the same way and were avoiding eye contact. No one said anything for a few moments then, just as the silence was starting to get uncomfortable, they all spoke at about the same time saying the same thing; 'thanks'. Then they all hurried off to get plates.
Something was different after that. Once they'd gotten their food, without saying a word, they found seats together. As they ate, they chatted pleasantly like friends do. Even Ron joined in when he wasn't stuffing his face. They didn't talk about anything even remotely important and pointedly avoided talking about the evening's events. Harry didn't know how it happened, but they'd all become friends. Well, Harry, Hermione and Neville had. Ron was acting friendly but Harry could tell he didn't mean it. They hung out in the common room until the day's events caught up with them then headed to bed with an agreement to meet for breakfast the next morning.
That had been a few hours earlier. Harry had climbed into his bed and pulled out the book like he did every night and noticed it was glowing. He was still sitting on his bed glaring at the glowing book on his lap. He was still bloody furious but his curiosity was beginning to get the better of him. Finally, unable to take it anymore, he opened the book and started to read.
I imagine you're a bit upset at me for not telling you about the troll.
'A bit upset?' Harry thought to himself before continuing to read. 'That's the understatement of the century!'
You need to understand that I knew what would happen because I lived through it myself. I knew it would most likely happen the same way because I purposely avoided having you do anything that might affect this moment in my past. I knew that you would get to Hermione in time and that you and Ron would save her. I knew that McGonagall would give you and Ron five points each for saving her and take five points from Hermione. It was the lie she told that got Ron to stop trying to drive her away and allowed us to become friends. I wasn't sure that would happen without the troll incident to bond you so I decided to let it happen. I didn't tell you before hand to keep to from interfering with the confrontation outside Flitwick's classroom that started the whole thing in motion.
I knew I could control how this moment played out for the most part and felt it was necessary to do so. As we continue to make changes, your time line will become more and more different from mine until my history will no longer matter to your timeline. That won't happen for several more years I suspect. Until then, please trust me. I have yours and Hermione's as well as everyone else you will come to care about's best interest at heart. When you're ready to accept that please read on for your next instructions.
Harry still wasn't happy but had to admit the book was probably right. He'd been in a right state all day trying to be alert for any and all threats wishing he knew what was coming so he could stop it before it started. Part of him still wished he could have but he couldn't argue with the results. He was now free to be friends with both Neville and Hermione. It was then that he remembered that the book never mentioned Neville being there at all and realized he'd already changed things a little. It really wasn't a big change but it was a change. He released his anger and looked back at the book for his next instructions and found only one sentence written there.
It's time to tell Hermione.